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MARTIN, J. M. & SWORD, C. L. (2000). Does Bach Have the Same Effect As Mozart on Spatial Reasoning?. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 3. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved October 3, 2022 .

Does Bach Have the Same Effect As Mozart on Spatial Reasoning?

Sponsored by: PHIL WANN (wann@missouriwestern.edu)
The influence of Mozart and Bach on spatial-temporal reasoning was examined using a counterbalanced within subjects design. Twelve students completed Mental Rotation Tests after listening to the two composers and silence. It was predicted that both Mozart and Bach would improve spatial ability. Performance on the MRT was not improved by any of the stimulus conditions.

An experiment conducted by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky (1993) found that listening to a Mozart composition increased scores on the paper folding and cutting task of the Stanford-Binet Scale of Intelligence. This increase in spatial-temporal abilities has been called the "Mozart Effect." Subjects scored 8 to 9 points higher on the spatial IQ test with the Mozart influence. This brief increase in scores, lasting only about ten minutes, did not affect other non-spatial tasks (Weinberger, 1998). This particular study lead to various questions about the Mozart effect, until several groups of scientists attempting to replicate the findings of Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky. These attempts have been both successful and unsuccessful. In the attempts to replicate the results of the Rauscher, et al. study, more tests have failed to replicate the results than were successful in replicating. Steele, Bass, and Crook (1999) attempted to closely repeat the Rauscher, et al. (1995) study. They did not proceed exactly as the prior experiment, but they should have found an effect from Mozart music. Because Mozart only had an effect on the first posttreatment, Steele et al. just used a pretest and one day of the stimulus condition. The three groups were exposed to Mozart, Glass, or silence. The results were not similar, though. A Mozart effect on cognitive task performance was not apparent, but mood scores were influenced. In another replication, Nantais and Schellenberg (1999) found an improvement on spatial-temporal task performance after participants listened to a work by either Mozart or Schubert as compared to sitting in silence. A second study indicated that the benefit of the music condition disappeared when a narrated story replaced silence in the control condition. This study concluded that preference of the listener determines the effect. It seemed that the subjects performed better after listening to something they enjoyed. Nantais and Schellenberg also concluded that the Mozart effect really does not have anything to do with Mozart music, but what the subject likes or enjoys even if it is not classical. Rideout and Taylor (1997) determined that individual differences influenced the dependent measure, but a small improvement was found with music. A more resent study (1998) tried once more to replicate Rauscher, et al. Rideout, et al. used the same Mozart music as Rauscher. They tested this music and other music with similar characteristics. This study found that specific musical selection enhanced spatial performance. Key components relating to the study of the Mozart effect were proposed by Rauscher and Shaw (1998). They argue that replications have not always been successful, because Mozart seems to only work on spatial-temporal tasks. Spatial imagery and temporal ordering of spatial components may also be necessary variables. Another important aspect involves the order of presentation of the listening and task conditions. Cognitive performance may also be influenced by the choice of musical composition. Other factors that may need to be taken into consideration include the age of the subjects, musical training, preference for exposure condition, and aptitude for task involved. These factors my have an effect on the outcome as well (Rauscher and Shaw 1998). Attempts to replicate the Rauscher, et al. study, whether successes or failures, have opened up doors to other possible discoveries relating to the Mozart effect and other advantages of music in general. The several studies of the Mozart effect have raised various questions about the benefits of music. For example, is Mozart the only composer who can enhance spatial-temporal reasoning? This study attempts to answer the previous question. The first study of the "Mozart Effect" suggested that Mozart`s music does have an enhancing effect on this reasoning ability. Other studies that have attempted to replicate the effect have found different results. A few studies found a slight enhancement with different composers. Mozart only has an effect on tests of spatial-temporal reasoning. The study compares Mozart`s music to Bach`s with a control of silence. Bach was a major musical influence on Mozart during his composing years, so it was predicted both types of music would effect the results of the spatial-temporal test.


Twelve intermediate psychology students were divided into five groups and they were exposed to the three conditions but in different orders to control for sequencing.

The Mental Rotation Test (Vandenberg and Kuse, 1978) was used to measure the effect of the music, played from two different compact discs on one of two CD players, or the silence. The MRT was divided into 3 sections and given to each student.

A within subject design was used to control for individual differences. All participants were exposed to both types of music and silence, but exposure to the three conditions took place in different orders.

One group was exposed to Mozart`s Sonata in D, K448 for 9 minutes before completing one part of the Mental Rotation Test. After a 5-minute break, the group was exposed to Bach`s Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2 before taking the second part of the MRT. After a second break, the group was exposed to a silent period for 9 minutes prior to completing the final part of the MRT. The other five groups were exposed to these three conditions as well, but exposure to the music/silence conditions took place in various orders to control for sequencing.

This particular study had no significant results relative to the different variables, F(2)=1.42, p=.26. It was found that Mozart`s and Bach`s means were similar, 8.67 and 8.83 respectfully. The silence variable seemed to have a higher mean at 9.58. Table A puts in perspective the variation in means of the three variables. The standard deviation of both the Mozart (2.35) and silence (2.47) were closely related, while the standard deviation for the Bach variable was more than 1 standard deviation lower than the other two at 1.27. The differences in the three standard deviations are illustrated in Table B.

The stated hypothesis was not supported with the findings of the experiment. There were no significant results due to the limited amount of time in between each part of the test. An effect may have been found if the test had been conducted over a period of days with each group versus a one hour time period. According to the data, the silence mean was greater than the other two variables. This result contradicted the prediction of Bach and Mozart variables would have a greater effect on spatial ability. The low standard deviation of the Bach variable indicates a small variation between scores among all participants after listening to his music. This result suggests that the presence of Bach had a similar effect among subjects in general. Through this test it seemed that his music put every one in the same mind-set but farther testing may be needed to determine this. Future research could consist of a different dependent variable to measure the effect of music on the mind. Different types of music could be used to determine if classical music has the effect or if it is the subjects` preference. A short survey on music preferences could be used before the experiment takes place. It is possible to use a pretest-posttest design with the subject`s preference as the stimuli.



Nantais, K (1999). The Mozart effect: An artifact of preference. Psychological Science, 10, 370-73.Rauscher, F. and Shaw, G. (1998). Key components of the Mozart effect. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 86, 835-41.Rideout, B.and et. al. (1998). Effect of music on spatial performance: A test of generality. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 86, 512-24.Rideout, B. and Taylor, J. (1997). Enhanced spatial performance following 10 minutes exposure to music: A replication. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 85, 112-14.Steele, K., et. al. (1999). The mystery of the Mozart effect: Failure to replicate. Psychological Science, 10, 366-369. Vandenberg, S. and Kuse, A. R. (1978). Mental rotations: A group test of three-dimensional spatial visualization. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47, 599-604. Weinberger, N. (1998). MuSICA research notes: V V, I 2. Retrieved January 30, 2000 from the World Wide: http://musica.cnlm.uci.edu/mrn/V512S98.html.

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