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There’s a myth out there that music will make your baby smarter. But it turns out that Mozart will not turn your baby into Einstein.

Hosted by: Hank Green
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Hank: Parents want what’s best for their kids. They want them to grow up to be smart, kind, productive people — and they’ll do almost anything to give their little bundle of joy a competitive advantage. Which has led to the strange explosion of the myth that playing classical music for babies might make them more intelligent.

You can buy all kinds of “classical music for babies” programs that supposedly, quote, “promote brain development.” But there’s no real evidence that they will actually make your baby smarter. The idea began with a paper published in Nature in 1993, called Music and Spatial Task Performance. Researchers told 36 college students to listen to either a Mozart sonata, a relaxation tape designed to lower blood pressure, or just plain old silence. Then, they were asked some questions designed to test spatial reasoning — for example, what kind of snowflake a cut-up piece of paper would look like when they opened it up.

The study found that the students’ average spatial IQ scores were 8 to 9 points higher after listening to music, but the effect only lasted about 15 minutes. But even though the study was tiny, they only included college students, and found a very specific effect that didn’t last very long, the idea was out there: music could affect the way people think.

From there, it snowballed: articles about the study started to generalize the results, saying that music made people smarter in general. Books like The Mozart Effect, and then The Mozart Effect For Children, helped spread the misconception. More researchers started to study the connection between music and intelligence. Some studies confirmed the outcome of the original study, but other researchers couldn’t reproduce the findings. Meta-analyses that compared results across all the studies found only a very small effect, if any at all.

It’s possible that music causes a slight boost in spatial reasoning because music and solving those kinds of puzzles both activate similar parts of your brain. So maybe the music is preparing those parts of your brain in some way, like an athlete warming up before a workout. But even if music helps you solve spatial puzzles, that doesn’t mean it makes you smarter overall.

The Mozart Effect does seem to help epileptic patients, though. In a few small studies, listening to Mozart’s music made seizures decrease. But as with many things in science, more research is needed. So, playing a bit of Bach or Mozart for your baby isn't going to do any harm.

But it won’t just, like, magically make them smarter. Things like good old fashioned talking and reading to your child are much more important for their development.

And speaking of babies, if you're one of the people who watches every single episode of SciShow as it comes out, and if you're watching this right now as it comes out, thank you very much, first of all, for being one of those people. But secondly... You may be seeing a little less of me because I'm going on paternity leave soon.

We've pre-taped a bunch of stuff. Thanks to our writers and our production staff for working hard to get all that done. But I will be out of the office for a while playing punk rock albums and John Scalzi audiobooks for my baby, so that it will be super smart. By which I mean, that I'll be playing those things for myself, because I will need distractions from my sleeplessness. I will miss you all! But I will be enjoying the break. Thank you for your support of SciShow, and as always, if you want to keep getting smarter with us, go to and subscribe.