The Mozart Effect: Concept Overview and Analysis

09 Apr 2018

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The Mozart Effect

  • Beth Boardley



The Mozart Effect is said to occur when individuals listen to the two piano sonata. It is hypothesized that by listening to this ensemble that individuals will remember information more easily. Two studies were conducted relating to the Mozart Effect. The first study relates to spatial skill performance and how we use the same neural pathways to process this as we do music, the second study was conducted to challenge the first study. The second study’s argument was that any music that is appreciated can cause the same memory effect. In the second study they conducted one experiment in which they exposed unborn mice to Mozart’s piano sonata K448 and then also conducted a study to see how Mozart’s piano sonata K448 affected patients who suffered from epilepsy. The conclusions were that Mozart’s piano sonata K448 did have a positive effect on both animals and humans. In this paper we will discuss the parts of the first study including the hypothesis, variables, evidence, and explanations the researchers use. We will also examine the merit and generalizability of the second study.

Music and Spatial Task Performance

By conducting research and doing experiments we can gain reliable answers to the millions of questions we have. There are many different types of research that can be conducted. Researchers choose the type of research and experiments to conduct based on the hypothesis, and the resources available to them. This purpose to this paper is to examine the study of the Mozart effect in relation to two articles, “Music and Spatial Task Performance” written by Rauscher, Shaw & Ky in 1993, and “The Mozart Effect” written by Jenkins in 2011, and to answer specific questions based on their research.

Fundamentally the Mozart Effect is a study that examines whether or not music helps individuals complete tasks better. The first article in question is Music and Spatial Task Performance. This article was written by Rauscher, Shaw & Ky in 1993. They strove to prove that there was a causal relationship between “cognition and cognitions pertaining to abstract operations such as mathematical or spatial reasoning” (Rauscher et al., 1993). They hypothesized that scans of the brain and its neural pathways would show that the intake and processing of music and our spatial ability would use the same pathways. They also hypothesized that theses paths cover large portions of the same areas of the brain.

To better understand these articles it is important to understand what spatial task performance is. “Spatial ability is the capacity to understand and remember the spatial relations among objects” (, n.d.). In other words it is the ability to visualize in one’s mind. This ability is not static as it develops throughout one’s life. In relation to application, spatial ability is related to a person’s ability to perform at a minimum of two tasks at the same time. An example of a spatial skill would be walking and dribbling a ball. Many occupations require prominent spatial ability such as mathematics, meteorology, natural sciences, engineering, and architecture, among many others.

Many of these jobs require research. Conducting research also requires spatial ability. There are many components to conducting research. Two of the most important components are the independent and dependent variables. An independent variable is a variable that stands alone and has no changes made to it. The independent variables in this study are Mozart's sonata, the college students, and the three-year-olds (Rauscher et al., 1993). A dependent variable is a variable that depends on other factors and changes. In the Rauscher et al., study the dependent variable was the memory.

Another component of a research study is the controlled variables. A controlled variable is a variable in which the researcher wants to remain constant. The controlled variables in the Rauscher et al., 1993 study consist of Mozart’s sonata, the college students, and the three-year-olds. The music was a necessary controlled variable because the study was music based. The age ranges of the participants was important to control because they wanted to find out how memory was affected in children and in adults. They wanted to see who would remember the information the longest.

Rauscher et al., 2013, presented data from two studies. They proved that the college students had better short term memory as a result of listening to Mozart’s sonata. They also showed that the three year olds had advancements, particularly in nonverbal cognitive ability, as a result of listening to Mozart’s sonata too. The evidence from this study was empirical and valid. The researchers explained that infants have the maximum ability relating to developing nonverbal cognitive skills as well as memorization. It has been shown that as we increase in age we lose memory recall and execution skills with the decrease in brain elasticity. This also makes it harder for adults to retain new information. The evidence presented in the article justified their explanation and proved that music and spatial ability travels among the same pathways in the brain.

The Mozart Effect

In 2001 another researcher Jenkins analyzed the work and studies conducted by Rauscher et al., 1993 in relation to the Mozart effect. Jenkins used the concept of “enjoyment arousal” as an explanation to the Mozart effect. Jenkins believed two specific factors that affected the study was the type of music being played and the participant’s particular taste for the music. For instance if the participants were to have been of a younger age such as a teenager then they would most likely respond with more positive results to music from their generation such as Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood.

In order to test the challenge hypothesis Jenkins conducted a study Jenkins conducted animal experiments. They used rats in utero and exposed them to music for 60 days. The rats were split into groups where each group were exposed to different music. The ensembles in which the rats were exposed to were “Mozart's piano sonata K448, to minimalist music by the composer Philip Glass, to white noise or to silence” (Jenkins, 2011). After the rats were born and the exposure period was ended they were tested using a maze navigation course.

The results from the study were surprising. The study from the maze navigation showed that the rats who were exposed to Mozart’s sonata were the quickest and also the most accurate at completing the maze (Jenkins, 2011). This information is significant because it showed that Mozart’s sonata and the Mozart effect does exist, that it is provable, and that it has an effect on memory. An additional study conducted did not relate to spatial skills or maze navigation. This study involved persons suffering from epilepsy. For this study they used “29 patients with focal discharges or bursts of generalized spike and wave complexes” (Jenkins, 2001).

While listening to Mozart’s piano sonata K448 patient’s EEG results had a visible reduction in epileptic activity. They study showed for some patients there was great improvements. For example “in one male, unconscious with status epilepticus, ictal patterns were present 62% of the time, whereas during exposure to Mozart’s music this value fell to 21%” (Jenkins, 2001). According to another study, “The long-term effect of listening to Mozart K.448 decreases epileptic form discharges in children with epilepsy”, the Mozart K448 also had effectiveness in reducing epilepsy and the frequency of epileptic episodes in children (Lin et al., 2011).

This study holds merit for several reasons. One reason is that it proves that the Mozart effect does exist. Secondly it provides evidence that the Mozart effect is not based only on music appreciation per the unborn rat’s performance in the maze. It also showed that this effect is not limited to spatial ability or memory as it was also proven to have profound effects in epileptic patients.

This study did not take into account individual spatial ability. For instance all the rats were apparently able to complete the maze. The researchers gave no warning that any rats were impaired leading us to assume all of the rats were healthy. The only difference encountered was the music in which the rats were exposed to, or lack thereof. The study performed with the patients suffering from epilepsy did not pertain to their spatial abilities it focused on the decrease of epileptic episodes.

.In order to make this study more generalizable all they would need to try and test the spatial ability of many different types of rats. There should be normal functioning rats, mentally deficient rats, deformed rats, and rats that suffer blindness and deafness issues. Added in there could be rats that suffer from malnutrition as well as obesity. With keeping the rest of the study the same a more wide-ranging inference can be made in relation to Mozart’s sonata and the effects it has on the rat’s performance in the maze navigation.

In regards to the studies with the epileptic patients other types of music should be used rather than just Mozart’s sonata. Other classical selections could be used such as selections from Bach, Chopin, or other Mozart selections. This could be helpful in order to see if the epileptic episodes are decreased with the various selections or if it is just that particular Mozart sonata.

The study could break the music down farther by examining the type of instrumentation within the selection. In the studies it was stated that the Mozart sonata was a piano piece. With this we may deduce that selections using the piano may have an effect on epileptic episodes. A generalization from this is that soothing piano music with no words could have a positive effect on the epileptic episode reductions. Another possibility, just as with the rats, the type of epileptic could be factor such as the severity of the epilepsy in the patient.


The conclusion of these studies is that the Mozart effect does in fact exist, that it is provable, and that there are positive results in the participants. The first study conducted pertained to spatial skills in college students as well as three year olds. This study proved that younger individuals have the ability to remember information more easily as a result of listening to Mozart’s sonata. The college students showed that information was retained only short-term.

Also proven was that the intake and processing of music and spatial abilities use the same neural pathways in the brain. It was later argued that any type of music can make people remember more as long as they appreciate they music being played. This however was disproved through the experiment that was conducted using the rats. They study showed that the rats that listened to Mozart’s piece performed better and more accurately in the maze vs. rats that listened to Philip Glass, white noise, or nothing at all. Also interesting was the discovery that listening to Mozart’s piano sonata K448 was proven to reduce epileptic episodes.

The Mozart effect unquestionably warrants further study. There needs to be different types of rats to determine if disabilities such as blindness or injury has an effect on their ability to navigate the maze. More studies with epileptic patients could be conducted as well in order to test different types of music’s relation to the reduction of episodes if any, as well as more studies on individuals and children.


Jenkins, J.S. (2001). The Mozart effect. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 94, 170-172. Retrieved January 21, 2015, from[email protected]&vid=1&hid=116 (n.d.). What is spatial ability? Retrieved January 21, 2015, from

Lin, L., Lee, W., Wu, H., Tsai, C., Wei, R., Mok, H., Weng, C., Lee, M., Yang, R., (2011). The long-term effect of listening to Mozart K.448 decreases epileptic form discharges in children with epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior, 21(4), 420-424. Retrieved January 21, 2015, from

Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G. L., & Ky, K. N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance. Nature, 365. 6447: 611. (October 14, 1993). (ProQuest Document ID 76004658). Retrieved January 21, 2015, from

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