In 1993 Gordon Shaw and Frances Rauscher, from the University of California, thought that they had made a spectacular discovery: they made a study and discovered that college students who listened to ten minutes of a Mozart Sonata showed a temporary enhancement of spatial-temporal skills. Yet nobody was able to replicate these findings.
But Shaw and Rauscher were not discouraged by the results of their colleagues. They made another study in 1997, an experiment which permits to infer cause-and-effect relations. They created three groups of prescholars: one received private piano lessons, the second one received private computer lessons, and the last one did not receive any lessons. They discovered that the first group performed 34% higher on a spatial abilities test. They concluded that music enhanced spatial-temporal skills, which are located in the hippocampus. However, once again, other studies, like the one realised by Kenneth Steele and John Bruer (who followed exactly the same protocol than Shaw and Rauscher), found that listening to music improves only a little bit, or even not at all, intelligence.
Yet these latest studies did not stop the growing industry of tapes and books about the Mozart effect. Shaw himself sells a CD and a book called Keep Mozart in mind. And another opportunist, Don Campbell, even created a website where he sells his products. So the Mozart effect still has a future.
To conclude I would like to say that the Mozart effect is the perfect example of an overhyped psychology finding. We should always be very prudent with extraordinary claims, that require strong evidences before being accepted.
Obviously I wrote this blog post listening to a Mozart Sonata.