Boost Your Creativity with “The Mozart Effect”


“A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate; it goes on to become.” – W.H. Auden (“Notes on Music and Opera,” The Dyer’s Hand, 1962)

Researchers have discovered many interesting things about the effects of classical music — especially Mozart’s — on the brain. For example:

* In 1996, the College Entrance Exam Board Service conducted a study of all students taking their SAT exams. Students who sang or played a musical instrument scored an average of 51 points higher on the verbal portion and 39 points higher on the math portion of the test.

* In a controlled University of California study, students who listened to 10 minutes of Mozart before taking SATs had higher scores than students who didn’t.

* Major corporations like Shell, IBM, and DuPont, along with hundreds of schools and universities, started using classical music to cut learning time in half and increase the retention of newly learned material. They noticed that creativity scores soared when people listened to Mozart.

* In a University of Washington study, people who listened to light classical music for 90 minutes while copyediting a manuscript caught 21% more mistakes.

And that’s not all …

* According to research done in a Baltimore hospital, heart patients got as much benefit from 30 minutes of classical music as they did from 10 mg of Valium.

* In a CaliforniaStateUniversity study, migraine sufferers were trained to use music, imagery, and relaxation techniques to reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of their headaches.

Some of the above was passed on to me by John Forde. John also shared the following note that was sent to him by CB, a fellow copywriter in Germany who describes his creative listening regimen this way:

“At the moment, I prefer to listen to organ concerts of Bach and Haydn while doing conceptual work. I listen to different instruments and styles when I write different parts of a mailing — classical organ music for the big picture, easy-listening instrumental music for the introductory story, J.S. Bach concerts for difficult analytical sequences with a lot of calculation, Viennese classics for the plot in the middle, and fast classical trumpet pieces for the close.

“I have about a dozen open-reel machines. So I can listen for hours to just one specific style (e.g., Beethoven piano concertos by different interpreters or in different sequences) or totally mixed styles (classical, baroque, romantic, impressionist, etc.) without any break or danger of repetition.”

In my experience, listening to classical music can improve your creative and analytical work in three ways:

1. It will help focus your attention. (I don’t know how. It does.)

2. It will put you in a “creative” mood and this can enhance your creativity. Again, don’t ask me how.)

3. It will calm you down and, if the experts are right, reduce stress by moderating your heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature.

Even if you rarely listen to classical music, give it a try. “The Mozart Effect” will help you on some level by having a positive, lifelong effect on your health, learning, and behavior.