Infants: Newborns and young babies quickly learn from their parents and surrounding adults. They absorb lots of information about making sounds and forming words, seamlessly and rapidly learning language. One study examined behaviors of four-week-old infants – using tongue protrusion as a sign that the baby enjoyed a certain auditory experience – to learn whether...
Newborns and young babies quickly learn from their parents and surrounding adults. They absorb lots of information about making sounds and forming words, seamlessly and rapidly learning language. One study examined behaviors of four-week-old infants – using tongue protrusion as a sign that the baby enjoyed a certain auditory experience – to learn whether such young children could understand and emotionally appreciate music versus silence. Researchers alternated music with silence, and they found that the infants protruded their tongues more while music was played. The babies protruded their tongues to music even when adults, especially their parents, were not present, so the behavior was not an attempt to mimic the faces the child saw. This suggested they were emotionally aroused in a positive way, so music can play an important part in the emotional development and stress management of children.
A study on kindergarten-aged children found that the group showed more creative behaviors and performed better on cognitive tasks when they had been exposed to different types of music. While much literature has been devoted to the positive impact of classical music on children’s minds, the study of Japanese 5-year-old children found that the children drew for a longer period of time after they had listened to, and sung along with, familiar children’s songs compared to just passively listening to Mozart or Albinoni. When children participated in music, not just listened to it, their drawings exhibited greater creativity and technical proficiency as well.Another study involving preschool-aged children used two interactive computer programs to train participating children in two different creative fields – one was for music, the other was for visual art. They trained with the programs for 20 days. At the end of the training period, 90 percent of children in the music group exhibited higher verbal intelligence.
Elementary school children:
A study examining the Mozart effect in upper-primary school-aged children – around 4th or 5th grade – found that students who listened to either Mozart or Bach during a paper folding task (PFT) performed better than the same age group attempting the PFT without background music. A 2010 study stated, though, that earlier research on the effect of music on children did not consider how performance was impacted. This study found that, in children ages 10 to 12 years old, calming music improved performance on both a memory task and on an arithmetic task. When unpleasant, aggressive, or emotionally arousing music was played, the group performed worse on both tasks.The researchers concluded that performance was more correlated to arousal and mood than previous studies suggested. Rather than having a direct effect on the brain, music had an indirect effect on learning and performance by changing how mood and stress were experienced.
Young adults and college students:
The brain continues to develop throughout high school and college, so music can play an important part in cognitive abilities. One study of 56 university students involved two tasks – a spatial processing task and a linguistic processing task – found that faster-paced Mozart selections improved the speed of comprehending and completing both tasks. This suggests that the Mozart Effect might work for several age groups, not just very young children.
Music can also reduce stress and improve learning and focus in children who have special education needs. An older study, from 1999, reported on the Mozart Effect in boys ages 12 and older who had been identified with special needs or emotional and behavioral difficulties. The group’s blood pressure, body temperature, and pulse rate were measured while the music was adulterated slightly to focus on specific aspects, to determine which part of the tracks had a positive effect on the children’s psychology and physical stimulus. The students all displayed improvements in physical coordination, less stress and frustration, and reductions in disruptive and aggressive behavior.While reports of the Mozart Effect’s benefits on all children may be overblown, the impact on children with special education needs is strong.
The importance of participation:
When children learn musical instruments, their literacy is improved; however, a 2014 study reported that children must actively participate in their music class to receive benefits to their learning and cognition. The study found that even in a group of motivated students, small variations like level of class participation or attendance could change how strong the impact of the music class was on their neural processing.While passively listening to music can confer some benefits to reduced stress and improved mood, true structural brain change appears more often with active participation in music, such as singing, dancing, and playing instruments.