It’s a claim that we’ve all heard before – listening to Mozart and other classical music will increase your baby’s intelligence. The ‘Mozart effect’ was a term first coined in 1991. A study showed an increased spatial ability after listening to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata. This study was actually conducted on a group of young adults, but the idea spread like wildfire that playing Mozart to babies and children would increase their IQ. But how much truth is in this statement?
How to Measure a Baby’s Intelligence…
The idea has never conclusively been tested on babies, for very good reason. How can you measure a baby’s intelligence? You can’t ask them questions to assess their intelligence, and they cannot sit tests. By the time they are old enough to have their IQ checked, so many additional factors have come into play. It would be impossible to determine the effect that listening to Mozart’s music has had on them.
However, there are studies that have tested the theory on children. Studies have been conducted where children are played music by Mozart, as well as popular music. Tasks are then set, and the children are assessed. It would appear that simply listening to music has no effect on intelligence and spatial ability at all!
However, studies involving children who were receiving regular music instruction show something quite different. Regardless of what music is being learned, children are consistently shown to score better in tasks involving maths, spatial cognition, and hand-eye coordination. The skills taught during their music lessons were shown to have positive benefits across many other areas of their lives.
Cow & Gate Study: ‘The Happy Song’
In October 2016, Imogen Heap collaborated with developmental psychologists from Goldsmiths College as part of a study by Cow & Gate. Their goal was to write a song specifically designed to make babies happy – ‘The Happy Song’. They used a careful balance of favourite sounds (airplane noises, animal sounds, baby laughter, etc.), a simple melody, 4/4 time signature, and major key. The end result is a song which they claim will put babies in the most positive mood. We tested this on J!
We played ‘The Happy Song’ to J when he was in a good mood, having been fed and changed recently. He was rolling around on our bed, and we put the music on for him to listen to. We didn’t interact with him at all during this playing:
Again, we played ‘The Happy Song’ to J when he was in a good mood, having been fed and changed recently. This time though, I really engaged with him – singing, moving and smiling lots:
What a huge difference in his response! He is listening, responding, and moving in reaction to what he can see and hear, and the way he feels.
Listening to any music alone is not going to make your baby more intelligent/happier/able to swim the English Channel! It is your interaction with them, and your connection to them and the music that has the biggest impact. Like so many musical activities advocated on this site, you must be completely committed to engaging with your baby in order to see any result. Music can be used as a tool to sing, dance and communicate with your baby, aiding their overall development.
Even before J was born, I listened to music all the time, exposing him to the same. As well as my usual varied diet of music, I chose several pieces that I listened to everyday throughout my pregnancy. Some of these were classical pieces, some were more mainstream, but all of them had some significance or importance to me. (You can read more about this in my article Musings on the Prenatal Bonding Power of Music).
Since J’s birth, we have observed a significant calming effect from listening to these pieces. It was remarkable how quickly he was soothed, as a newborn baby, by the sound of particular pieces. Even now, at 6 months old, they still have the ability to calm him down in those moments of meltdown!
So, have I affected his development and intelligence by exposing him to classical music prenatally? Not directly. However, the positive hormones (oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ especially) that flooded my body when hearing music that makes me feel good, will have been felt by him also. He will have learnt to associate feelings of warmth, happiness, and contentment with particular pieces of music, just because that is how I felt at the time of listening. This positive feeling can now be replicated, bringing him quickly to a state of calm when he hears particular things.
So, how much truth is there in the idea that classical music can increase your baby’s intelligence? I believe that it doesn’t matter what genre of music your baby listens to, as long as it evokes a positive reaction from you, and as long as you engage with your baby regularly. Use music as a tool to interact, and they will continue to flourish and thrive.
- A baby that is interacted with a lot will have a faster rate of development than a baby that is not. They will more inclined to repeat and copy actions, a baby’s main way of learning, if they receive praise and encouragement. Their communicative skills will develop faster in an environment that is social, and full of sounds and other stimulants.
- A happy and contented baby will develop faster than a baby who is not. Only when all of their fundamental needs are met (i.e. they are fed, warm, dry, etc.), can they turn their attention to learning and developing. A baby who feels safe and loved will be more likely to thrive, as they have nothing to worry about or fear for.
Follow our 10-step plan to make your home a musical one, and keep loving what you listen to – all the rest will fall into place.
Originally posted 2017-01-13 11:24:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter