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I’ll bet Julie Clark  is counting her blessings that she’s already cashed out of the whole Baby Mozart racket, because the science has caught up with it:

VIENNA — Listening to Mozart does not make you more intelligent, researchers from the Austrian composer’s homeland said on Monday, contradicting a popular 1993 study that first coined the “Mozart effect.”

A team at Vienna University’s Faculty of Psychology compiled studies that have since 1993 sought to reproduce the Mozart effect and found no proof of the phenomenon’s existence, the university said in a statement.

The original study showed that adolescents performed better in reasoning tests having listened to Mozart’s 1781 Sonata for Two Pianos in D major than those who listened to something else or those who had been in a silent room.

But after analysing around 3,000 individual cases compiled from 40 studies conducted around the world, the University of Vienna team found no proof that the “Mozart effect” actually exists.

“Those who listened to music, Mozart or something else — Bach, Pearl Jam — had better results than the silent group. But we already knew people perform better if they have a stimulus,” head researcher Jakob Pietschnig told AFP.

The 1993 study at the University of California only involved 36 students, said Pietschnig, whose statistically superior study had the specific objective of reducing the margin of error.

Pietschnig also said the original study was a typical case of “publication bias” whereby scientific journals prefer positive results — i.e. the benefits of classical music — to negative or inconclusive results.

When the research was first published in Nature it had a considerable impact on public opinion, leading creches in the United States to play classical music and the southern US state of Georgia to give newborns a free CD of classical music.

Pietschnig pointed out that the original study was carried out on adults in order to make a one-off assessment of spatial reasoning rather than intelligence.

“I recommend everyone listen to Mozart, but it’s not going to improve cognitive abilities as some people hope,” he said.

The “Mozart effect” is ranked sixth in US psychologist Scott E. Lilienfeld’s 2009 book “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology.”

I agree with Pietschnig – There are plenty of very good reasons to listen to Mozart and to expose the younglings to him.  But a neurotic belief that such exposure will help get little Briana or Cody into Harvard Med isn’t one of them.

(I happen to love that particular sonata, by the bye, and once studied the 1st piano part.  Never got the chance of an actual performance, but still…..)

Last evening at batting practice, a couple of the eldest gel’s teammates were listening to a Lady Gaga song on their Ipod while waiting their turn at bat.  As the gel came over after her own turn, they asked her if she had heard it.  “No,” she said, “My dad doesn’t let me listen to that kind of music.”

The teammates were incredulous, and immediately started razzing me about it.

“That’s right,” I said with a smile, “I’m a mean old man.”

As I said it, I could see the gel smiling furtively herself.  The truth of the matter is that she doesn’t want to listen to that kind of music (which she refers to as “junk” in private), but at the same time doesn’t want to look like an oddball in front of her friends.  (We’ve had the same experience regarding certain teevee shows and movies over the past year or so.)

It strikes me that the blame-it-on-my-parents line is a useful social fiction at this age, to be discarded when she gains the confidence to stand up for her own values and preferences.  So far as I can tell, the gel doesn’t suffer any ostracism for it from her mates, but instead receives something like sympathy for living under such an iron rule.


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May 2010