Friday, July 02, 2010

The Mozart News Effect

Take one small study about a specific cognitive task, run through the journalistic machine of scientific misunderstanding and exaggeration, and you have The Mozart Effect.

NPR reports on how a study that showed listening to Mozart improved one spatial reasoning task for about ten minutes, became a whole industry of 'listening to Mozart will make your baby a genius' products. The latest issue of Intelligence calls it the 'Schmozart Effect'.

EoR's readers will also be aware of the role journalists played in beating up the MMR-autism scare. Recently, journalists (or one in particular, though others repeated his falsehoods unquestioningly) have also been berated for reporting misinformation on climate science.

When journalists started reporting that the cognitive researcher had claimed rock music had a negative impact on cognition, she started getting death threats. She had never made such a claim, but even if she had, are death threats any sort of intelligent response? Perhaps there's a 'Rock Music Criticism Effect' yet to be studied?

As the NPR report notes, the 'Mozart Effect' could just as easily be a 'Pearl Jam Effect', if you happen to prefer that sort of music. Which probably explains EoR's discovery of the 'Throbbing Gristle Effect'.

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