I Tested the Mozart Brain Boost on My Mind
This story began when I came across a playlist of Mozart’s music that promised to boost my brainpower. I was both curious and skeptical.
I wanted to know: would listening to a couple of hours of Mozart really make me smarter? Would there be a rise in my IQ?
My experience listening to Mozart became a journey of discovery. To start with, I ended up finding a whole industry around Mozart’s music that’s based largely on misinformation and misunderstanding of the research.
During the 1990s the governor of Georgia mandated that every new baby in the state be given a CD album of classical music when they left the hospital.
The ‘Mozart Effect’ tidal wave grew so strong that pregnant mothers around the world started turning to Mozart’s music. A whole industry producing classical music CDs for babies was spawned and persists to this day. Many new mothers believed — and still believe — that their babies would be born smarter because of their in utero listening.
The problem? The whole thing was mostly hokum. There was no research at the time showing that Mozart had any effect on babies in the womb — or babies at all for that matter. Nor does listening to classical music have a positive impact on young children.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story. I looked into experiments that have been conducted around Mozart’s music, and the research does show a potentially positive impact on adults.
I replicated the original “Mozart Effect” experiment on my own brain. Having never really listened to Mozart before, I got more into his music than I expected! I was also pleasantly surprised at the results of my experiment — and the research I found that backs up what I found.
Let’s take a look at what I discovered.
My First Mozart Experiment — Self Observation
To start out, I conducted a very simple experiment. I hit play on the YouTube video of Mozart music. And I observed what happened in my mind and body while I listened.
I found the music pleasant and mostly relaxing. At times while listening I found myself dropping into flow, as I often do while at work. The music distracted my focus at times because it was more ornamental than the music I usually listen to. I didn’t notice any significant difference compared to listening to other music while working.
After this experiment, my verdict was that I prefer my usual choice of music, but I was decided to add another step to my experiment. Having been disappointed in what I learned about the Mozart effect on babies, I searched for more research that linked listening to Mozart with a brainpower boost.
As it turned out, there’s plenty of research available, and it seemed promising.
Mozart Boosts Your Intelligence — According to Science
In 1993, psychology researcher Frances Rauscher took a set of college students and tested their spatial intelligence. The initial test results established a baseline.
Then, Rauscher split the students into three groups. Each was given a different task to complete for the next 10 minutes:
- Group one sat in silence
- Group two listened to relaxation instructions designed to reduce blood pressure
- Group three listened to Mozart
Following this 10 minute session, each group took another spatial intelligence test.
The initial results were astonishing. The students who listened to Mozart saw an increase in their spatial IQ of 8–9 points. The typical IQ of the group tested jumped from 110 to 119.
That’s a powerful result. It means listening to Mozart for just 10 minutes could significantly increase your intelligence. Why doesn’t everyone know about this? Is the effect really as powerful as it first seems?
I’ll come to that in a moment, but first I’ll share what happened when I tried the test on myself.
I Repeated Rauscher’s Original Mozart Experiment on Myself to See if it Made Me Smarter, Too
I decided to run Rauscher’s experiment on myself. I wanted to repeat the experiment as closely as I could.
Here’s what I did:
Step 1: I Took an IQ Test
As an initial step, I took an IQ test based on Raven’s Progressive Matrices. This type of IQ test includes elements of spatial reasoning, which is the type of intelligence that Rauscher found is boosted by listening to Mozart.
I also journaled about how I was feeling, so I could monitor any change in my emotions during the experiment.
Step 2: I Listened to Mozart for 10 Minutes
Directly replicating Rauscher’s experiment, I listened to Mozart for 10 minutes. I chose the same track that Rauscher used in her experiment: Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D (K448).
Step 3: I Took a Follow-Up IQ Test
Using the same method as the initial IQ test, I took a follow-up test. I also journaled my feelings.
The Results I Achieved from The Experiment — Better Mood and Higher IQ
I saw two significant results from taking this experiment:
- My mood was lifted
- My IQ test score increased by 5 points
In my journal entry before listening to Mozart, I wrote:
I feel quite tired, it’s been a busy day, I’m feeling positive too, though I’m low in motivation right now.
After 10 minutes of listening to Mozart, I wrote in my journal:
I feel more energised and raring to go. I wouldn’t say I feel smarter, but I do feel more cultured, like I’d visited a small corner of heaven.
I felt somewhat skeptical about the increase in my IQ score, and I wondered if it was more a reflection of my ability to take the IQ test more quickly the second time around. However, the results I achieved directly reflect what Frances Rauscher discovered in her original study on Mozart. And it’s possible that I took the test more quickly because listening to Mozart improved my focus.
Some Caveats to the Mozart Effect — and a Weird Experiment on How Mozart Impacts Rodents
Listening to Mozart may boost your intelligence, but it’s by no means a miracle effect. There are a few important caveats to the results of Rauscher’s study:
- Rauscher found that the increase in intelligence lasts only 10–15 minutes.
- Other researchers have since conducted studies similar to Rauscher's. These studies show you can increase your intelligence by listening to Mozart — but not necessarily by as much as Rauscher found.
- As I stated earlier, and Rauscher has also stated, there’s no evidence that listening to Mozart increases the intelligence of babies or young children.
Some researchers also wondered whether the students listening to Mozart got higher scores on IQ tests because they’d had more fun compared to their peers sitting in silence. They said perhaps the reason for the increased IQ was simply “enjoyment arousal”.
Here’s when it gets a bit weird. These researchers then decided to try the “Mozart Effect” on rats.
You can’t accuse rats of enjoying Mozart too much. So if rats who listened to Mozart got smarter, then it would prove there was something in the Mozart effect, right?
Well, that’s what happened. The rats who listened to Mozart found it easier to complete a maze, compared to rats who had listened to silence, white noise, or other classical music.
There’s only one problem: the rats were exposed to Mozart’s music for over 80 days. That’s more than 10% of a rat’s lifetime. The human equivalent would be listening to Mozart non-stop for eight years.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got plans for the next eight years. They don’t all involve Mozart. And I’m not that worried about my ability to complete a maze.
Even so, it’s interesting to know that Mozart has this effect on rodents too!
In Summary, Mozart Really Does Boost Your Brain
I got curious about whether Mozart really could increase my brainpower. I looked into the research and ran a test on myself by listening to Mozart for 10 minutes. Here’s what I discovered:
- Researchers have found that listening to Mozart increases people’s IQ, for a short period
- Mozart increases the intelligence of rodents
- However, there’s no evidence that listening to Mozart makes babies smarter
My own experience backs up what the researchers found. My IQ test results increased when I listened to Mozart, and I felt more relaxed and focused
I enjoyed spending time with Mozart, and I’m glad I invested the time in conducting this experiment. I could feel the difference as I listened. Now, whenever I want a quick boost to my creative thinking, I plan to listen to Mozart’s music.
To skeptics like me, it seems a bit far-fetched that a particular type of music could increase your intelligence. However, the evidence shows that listening to Mozart really can make you smarter.
If you’d like to try boosting your own intelligence, here’s the Mozart sonata that was used in Rauscher’s study, and that I used in my own experiment.
Happy listening — and here’s to your extra IQ points!
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