There’s nothing more macho than a bunch of big, strong guys throwing on the gear, hitting the field, and battling it out during a grueling NFL football practice — all while listening to Mozart. Huh? What was that last part?
That’s right: New York Jets coach, Eric Mangini, has Mozart blaring through the loud speakers during practice. Why?
“From different studies, they’ve shown â€” I may be a little wrong on the technical side â€” that Mozart’s music and brain waves are similar and that it stimulates learning. They play it a lot at schools around the country, very low, underneath. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but why not give it a shot?” said Mangini.
After hearing this on ESPN, as the sportscasters mocked and laughed at the topic, I decided to do a little research myself. I found what is known as “The Mozart Effect.” Some believe that listening to Mozart, or any similar Baroque music, stimulates the brain and can increase intelligence, learning, and cognitive ability.
Unfortunately, most of the claims have harsh critics who have demonstrated time and time again that the so-called “Mozart effect” is minuscule at best. One of the topics most well-known opponents is a researcher by the name of Christopher F. Chabris, who had this to say:
Chabris stated that his meta-analysis demonstrated “that any cognitive enhancement is small and does not reflect any change in IQ or reasoning ability in general, but instead derives entirely from performance on one specific type of cognitive task and has a simple neuropsychological explanation,” called “enjoyment arousal.” For example, he cites a study that found that “listening either to Mozart or to a passage from a Stephen King story enhanced subjectsâ€™ performance…”
My favorite part of that study is the term, “enjoyment arousal.” Only a scientist could come up with a phrase like that without seeing the problem it presents to the less mature among us.
On the other hand, one of the reasonings behind the Mozart effect that actually seemed to make some sense was this:
When your body hears the even, one beat per second of Baroque music, your heart rate and pulse relax to the beat. When you are in this relaxed, but alert state, your mind is able to concentrate more easily. Music corresponds to and affects our physiological conditions. During heavy mental work, our pulse and blood pressure rises, and it’s usually more difficult to concentrate in this state. The Baroque and Mozart music pieces on the Mozart Effect learning tapes and compact disks have been especially selected for their beat pattern (60 beats per minute), reduce your blood pressure and pulse rate and increases your ability to learn at the same time.
So, even though the actual “Mozart effect” seems to be a bit over-hyped, that doesn’t mean classical music can’t at least help relax your body and calm your mind. I know I was never a fan, because I thought it was too “old” and not “cool” enough. But, when I decided to give it a try, I was quite impressed at how the instruments and arrangements really do seem to speak without words — not to mention it makes me look smart and sophisticated.
I don’t normally listen to music as I work, but I’m going to test it out a little this week to see if I can tell any difference. Feel free to dust off your classical collection and join me in the experiment.