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Beethoven To Beyonce: Can Music Really Make Babies Smarter?

Philippe Put via Flickr CC

For years, the fact that classical music helps little brains grow and develop has been common knowledge. It appears in books about raising kids, comes from other parents, and spurs sales of CDs with names like “Bach For Babies.” But is it actually solid advice? We spoke with Jayson Greene who wrote the article “Mozart Makes You Smarter…And Other Dubious Musical Theories." He says no, it isn’t.

It turns out the ‘Mozart Effect’ is more the stuff of scientific legend than of scientific studies. The research behind the movement came from a 1993 study conducted on college students – no babies were involved – that was mostly debunked in 1999. But the idea that classical music could help boost test scores, and thus was conceivably good for brain development, was already being cited in books about awakening children’s creative minds. And if there’s one thing parents can’t resist, it’s the promise of making their child even smarter and more special, before all those neural pathways get cemented in place.

So, what does make a good playlist for little minds? Jayson Greene says that the emotional content of music is important, as well as sound: Ice Cube doesn’t make the cut, but De La Soul and Tribe does. He also plays music that has personal meaning, like Neil Young, and yes, even some Debussy.

Here’s Jayson Greene’s playlist of music that he shares with his daughter. 

To hear the full interview with Jayson Greene, click here

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