Does Classical Music Make Infants Smarter?

Kids Really Do Turn Out Fine Whether They Listen To Classical Music Or Not....

A picture of our boys at about eight months old. I didn't listen to classical music, so they weren't exposed to it, and they turned out just fine.
A picture of our boys at about eight months old. I didn't listen to classical music, so they weren't exposed to it, and they turned out just fine. | Source
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, creator of some of the worlds most memorable and best-loved classical music compositions.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, creator of some of the worlds most memorable and best-loved classical music compositions. | Source

Parents Have Always Wanted To Give Children Advantages, If They Can...

In the always changing world we live in today, if there was a way to make someone more intelligent, say by listening to a certain type of music, people would be embracing that idea and doing it. Using today's terminology, the idea would "go viral."

There was actually a test done back in 1993 on college students and the results of that test sparked an idea that came to be known as "The Mozart Effect." This test was to see if students could look at a piece of paper that had been folded and cut, and then figure out what it would look like if it was unfolded. It was done right after listening to different types of music.

The findings of this well-known test became the basis for a movement which held the belief that exposing babies and young children to classical music at an early age would somehow make them more intelligent.

To do this test, college students first listened to a choice of 10 minutes of classical music, 10 minutes of silence or 10 minutes of a relaxation track. What happened was unexpected and led some to believe that perhaps classical music really could raise a person's IQ, even if it was only on a temporary basis. The students exposed to the 10 minutes of classical music scored about eight or nine points higher than the other students scored when they were asked to figure out what the paper would look like if it was unfolded.

This test is what led to what has since been called "The Mozart Effect." It was believed to be a temporary raising of the IQ due to listening to classical music. From this, an entire industry sprang up providing classical music CD's for babies and children, with the belief that perhaps they would become smarter by listening to this music.


Listening To Classical Music Certainly Does Not Hurt...

What was found out later, however, is that it didn't make much of a difference either way whether a child is exposed to classical music at a young age. The belief today is that it certainly doesn't hurt kids and babies to listen to classical music. The soft, soothing music can help them to relax, especially when they are trying to drift off to sleep. But chances are, a parent is not going to create another Einstein by exposing their tiny tot to classical music.

Learning music itself is very good for children, especially in the case of learning to play an instrument, and is highly encouraged. The actual act of learning how to play an instrument uses areas of the brain that can help children with memory and retention skills and to develop cognitive abilities, and is always recommended, especially for school age children.

However, putting headphones on a pregnant woman's belly and feeding the unborn baby a steady stream of Beethoven, Bach or Mozart music probably is not going to create a genius. The creating of a genius still seems to be determined largely by genetics, as it always has been. But if listening to classical music helps the expectant Mom to relax, that can be a good thing, especially if blood pressure is an issue for her during her pregnancy.

An Entire Industry Was Created Based On The Belief That Classical Music For Infants Made Them Smarter!

Eventually, just on the basis of this one study done in 1993 when the results were published in a short article in a magazine called "Nature," somehow the belief spread that classical music would make infants and young children smarter. Parents began rushing out to get the collections of CD's, videos and books aimed towards developing babies and young children. The most popular of these lines of children's products is known as "Baby Einstein."

In fact, back then the Governor of Georgia, Zell Miller, held this belief as well. In 1998 he created a mandate that every new mother and expectant mother in the state would be given a classical music CD for their child. This was a very nice gesture, and a nice thought, but chances are it really didn't have that much of an impact on the intelligence of the children who listened to that music.

In addition to this, in Florida there was a mandate created that day care centers and young child care providers would have to provide classical music in the background. The music was required to be piped in through the sound system while the business was operating.

The belief that children could be made smarter by listening to music is based on two things. First, it is based on the belief that there is a period of time in an infants development when the things that they are exposed to at that time, this certain window of time, would affect them for the rest of their lives. Secondly, it was also based on the belief that music was beneficial to a child's development. Therefore, it seemed to make sense that classical music would be the best type of music to expose them to.

There are still those who argue today that the exposure to classical music at a young age is a very good thing. The author of several books on the subject, Don Campbell, has the conviction that there is, indeed, a "Mozart Effect." He is a classical musician himself and has a strong belief that music and education and health all go hand in hand and work together to create a healthier and more well-rounded individual.

A French physician, Alfred Tomatis, found that classical music did help certain groups of youngsters, especially those affected by dyslexia, autism and attention deficit disorders. His finding was that music helped the brain to be more organized. He also found that the best music to do this was music that was not overly rhythmic or music that did not have highly emotional overtones to it.

Other tests were done in the late 1990s that seemed to prove that listening to classical music did not really have much of an effect on intelligence. It was later suggested that the best way to help youngsters to achieve greater intelligence is to have them actually learn to play an instrument and not just passively listen to music. The act of learning to read music and to play a musical instrument had much more of an effect on intelligence than simply having classical music on in the background while a student is studying, for example.

And certainly, exposing infants to a good variety of classical music won't hurt and they may really enjoy listening to the music. Parents are advised to expose infants and young children to various complex musical sounds like jazz and classical music. This will help to keep their interest and keep them stimulated. Parents are advised not to simply play the same music over and over.

When children are older, they will most likely find certain types of music that they are attracted to and love to listen to. When they are young, however, most infants will benefit even more from the attention paid to them by parents and the social activity provided for them. Keeping their young minds stimulated and engaged will ultimately turn out to be much more beneficial for the child in the long term than simply putting a CD into a CD player or a video into a video player. The crucial act of learning from everyday life experiences is the real key to enhanced intelligence and good emotional development.

Would You Expose Your Child Or Grandchild To Classical Music?

  • Absolutely! It certainly won't hurt, and it's good for them to be exposed to many experiences
  • No way! Mozart and the others are too old-fashioned!
  • Maybe, it probably wouldn't hurt
  • Are you kiddin'? My little one is gonna be rappin' before age one!
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Comments 19 comments

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

Very insightful hub, and I agree it will not make them any smarter, but I think it is soothing for them to listen to something so beautiful while they drift off to sleep. Ahh, such a sweet picture of your boys!!! Voted up, interesting and useful. God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper


Miss Mimi profile image

Miss Mimi 4 years ago from On the road again

Interesting o hear about the actual studies. I think, as with so many things, there's no "easy out" when it comes to helping a child develop their learning, cognitive or motor skills or their imagination. The thought that a child will instantly have a head start because somebody pushed play on a cd or sat them in front of a tv has always seemed a bit silly to me. I love the difference these studies made between just passive listening, and the active focus it takes to interact with the music by learning to play it yourself. Voted up and interesting, thanks for posting this!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

I know both my babies heard plenty of music and have you ever been around a baby listening to music, well toddlers anyway, they shake those feet and legs and learn a rhythm all on their on. That has to be good. It def shows they enjoy it! Great idea for a hub!


KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks so much, Faith! We lived in Hawaii when this pic was taken, so we had to dress in Hawaiian style! :) I think classical music is very soothing and would help them when they are falling asleep. Thank you for commenting and for the great votes! :)


KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thank you Miss Mimi! I agree, simply exposing them to music in a passive way is ok, but what really helps is having them actively learn to play an instrument and read music! That seems to be much more beneficial. Thanks so much for your great comment and for voting! I appreciate it!


KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

You're so right, Jackie! Little ones LOVE music! Our granddaughters love it. One of them told me a few weeks ago that Justin Bieber has cooties. I told our son to tell her to "keep that thought!" She'll need it in about ten years! ;)

Seriously though, they seem to know at a VERY young age what they like and they really DO get into it! I've seen little ones "bopping" to background music in public places, and it is just the cutest thing ever! It makes everyone around them SMILE :) Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)


abbykorinnelee profile image

abbykorinnelee 4 years ago from Ripon Wisconsin

No it doesn't...I just took an infant development class last semester and we had toread the scientific experiemental study that was done on this and unfortunately its mostly hype.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

The exposure to music has proven to benefit the child in many ways. The mood and emotions are calming for them within the womb. I like your topic and sharing of this idea.


abbykorinnelee profile image

abbykorinnelee 4 years ago from Ripon Wisconsin

It doesn't make them "smarter" though


KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

I agree Abby, it does seem like it has been hyped up a lot. And you see CD's in the infant departments of stores all the time. I think it's ok to play this music for infants, but it doesn't make them smarter by listening to it. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment!


KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thank you Dianna! :) I think this type of music has a calming effect, especially when infants are falling asleep. Some infants prefer complete quiet though. I know our boys had to have things quiet when they were falling asleep. Once they were asleep I could be almost as noisy as I wanted to be (which usually was not noisy at all)! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)


abbykorinnelee profile image

abbykorinnelee 4 years ago from Ripon Wisconsin

It did get very hyped up and the market boomed with all the products. I am not saying it isn't a wonerful thing. Auditory stimulation is definitely a good thing of course and its better than letting the baby be exposed to "back that thang up" or some other god awful verbage...classical music is very soothing to autistic music minded kids too...It sooths for sleep too...I just don't like that when you look at the scientific studies you see that it doesn't actually do what it claimed to do. Has me actually looking into the scientific research and consulting my developmental psychology professor before I buy something to help my autistic son. The one thing that IS scientifically proven to help them communicate right before the can talk but they have comprehension and really helps with kids on spectrum is BABY SIGNS.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 4 years ago

Great information. My sisters told me about this and her kids grew up listening to this kind of music. They are doing well in the fields they want to do. I agree that there is no harm in listening.

Thanks for sharing. :-)


KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Hi Abby! Consulting a professional would be a great choice to help with your autistic son. I think classical music would be soothing for anyone, especially to help with relaxation. I haven't heard of Baby Signs, I'll have to check into that. Thank you for such an interesting comment! :)


KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks ignugent17! :) So glad your sisters kids did well when they grew up. :) I don't think there's any harm in kids listening either. Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it!


artsandlearning profile image

artsandlearning 2 years ago from 1518 Brookhollow Drive, Suite 15, Santa Ana, CA, 92705

I like your thought as learning music itself is very good for children especially in the case of learning to play an instrument, and is highly positive.

http://www.artsandlearning.org/


KathyH profile image

KathyH 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

I agree artsandlearning! I think music is a fantastic thing for all kids to be exposed to! :)


artsandlearning profile image

artsandlearning 2 years ago from 1518 Brookhollow Drive, Suite 15, Santa Ana, CA, 92705

Very insightful hub! It really very Interesting to hear about the actual studies and I agree it will not make them any smarter, but are more soothing for them to listen to something so beautiful while they drift off to sleep. However, simply exposing music in a passive way is ok but active learning is required for reading music and play instrument.


KathyH profile image

KathyH 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

That's very true artsandlearning! :)

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