First Impression Week 9: Mozart and Learning

For this first impression I will be discussing the effect listening to music has on child intelligence with regard to the decision by Governor Miller of Georgia to provide new babies with a CD or tape of Mozart and Bach. Miller is a large supporter of the theory that listening to music from artists such as Bach and Mozart will increase the intelligence of babies, and therefore spent one hundred thousand dollars of Georgia’s budget to provide children a tape with music. While this topic has been very controversial, a study by Frances Rauscher shows that there may be a causal connection between some forms of intelligence and listening to Mozart. This paper covers two studies, one that studied the effects of Mozart on spacial reasoning abilities in college students, and another that studied music training in three year olds and their cognitive abilities. In the first study, the data show that after one listen of Mozart, the spacial reasoning abilities of the individual improved significantly, and continued to improve significantly for the majority of the five trials. The individual who was in silence improved once significantly, which may have been due to a learning curve according to Rauscher. The second study showed that infants who had music training showed enhancements in non-verbal cognitive abilities, for example puzzle solving capabilities.

This study does not seem to provide definitive evidence to say that music does indeed boost intelligence, but it does provide valuable data that supports the claim that some forms of intelligence are enhanced when exposed to Mozart. It will be interesting to see what the data from future studies will say on this topic because, at least to me, it does not seem intuitive that listening to music would increase intelligence, even if it were Mozart. In general the evidence here shows only positive effects of music on intelligence so in my opinion Millers decision to send infants home with music is supported by this study.


FIP – Affecting Intelligence

This week in psychology, we are learning about the positive and negative effects teachers can have on their students’ overall confidence and intelligence levels.  We were told to watch three videos: one about Jane Elliot’s blue eyes/ brown eyes experiment, stereotype threats, and the discovery of the Pygmalion effect.



All three of these videos discuss different scenarios in which a teacher’s certain expectation of their students can impact the way they perform in that class or in their school in general.  In the first video, Jane Elliot’s classic experiment to teach her students about discrimination is described.  In order for her students to personally experience discrimination, this elementary school teacher placed her students into two groups: those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes.  She told the class that the blue-eyed children were superior to the brown-eyed children.  The blue-eyed students were told not to play with the brown-eyed students during recess and vice versa.  As the school day went on, the “superior” blue-eyed students began calling their brown-eyed peers names and overall, treated them as lesser individuals.  Jane Elliot also noticed that her students with blue eyes performed much better on spelling tests on average than those of her students with brown eyes.  When she changed which group was receiving the discrimination, however, saying that brown eyes were superior to blue eyes, her students with brown eyes performed better on the spelling tests.  This begs the question of whether or not a teacher’s expectation (low or high) of a particular group of students has an impact on their intelligence level and how well they do in the class.  In the second video we watched, the concept of stereotype threats was explained and tested.  In the video, stereotype threats were described as the feeling an individual gets when they think that if they perform a certain way in a specific situation or test, it will confirm a typical stereotype about them.  This very fear/hope often results in the individual living up to their specific stereotype, whether it is a negative or a positive one.  In the third video, a group of elementary school students were given an exam in order to test their current and potential future intelligence levels.  Although, it is impossible to predict how a child’s intelligence will grow in just one year, the teacher of these students was instructed to inform the class on which students would grow in their intelligence that upcoming year, based on the tests they had taken.  At the end of the year, the same class of students were tested again to see how much, if any, their intelligence had grown in the past year.  On average, the students who had been randomly chosen as the ones who would have the potential to grow intellectually, in fact did.  And the students who weren’t given any specific expectations from their teacher did not grow nearly as much as the others.  This is just another example of how much a teacher’s expectations of a student can affect not only the way they view themselves, but their actual intelligence level and how well they perform in the classroom setting.

In my personal experience as a student, I believe that a teacher’s view of a student can affect the way they perform in that class or in their school, overall.  During my freshman year in high school, it was my first time taking a Pre-AP class instead of a regular class.  During my Pre-AP Biology class, I really enjoyed learning about the material and I often got high grades in the class.  I remember one time we had taken a quiz in class and I had gotten a C.  Since this was unusual for me, my teacher seemed a little disappointed that I had not done so great on the quiz.  Because of this, I studied the material I had not understood and made a larger effort not to get any more low grades in that class.  In my case, this negative reaction from my teacher made me motivated to do better on the next quiz and the next test after that.

If we want to see improvement in the school system, however, I believe the first step is to help teachers understand their important role in these children’ lives, especially the younger ones.  I think it is impossible to have just one method in order to help a student succeed in a classroom.  Every individual is different and I believe it is the teacher’s job to see each and every student differently, not in a negative way, but in a personalized way in order to help them grow intellectually.  For some students, firm encouragement is the best method to get them motivated to do school work and to make better grades on a daily basis.  For some students, however, they need to be reassured they have what it takes to make good grades and they just need to apply themselves.  The teacher can then ask the student what he/she thinks will help them complete schoolwork.  This way each child can be specifically helped, based on their own needs.  Often, in the school system, kids who get mediocre/poor grades in school are seen as not that smart.  When, in fact, these students may be used to teachers ignoring them or disregarding their effort in school.  Instead of focusing on the “good” students in class, teachers should take a look at the struggling ones and ask them: How can I make this easier for you to learn and succeed?

Does Music Inspire Intelligence?

Have you ever wondered if listening to music could make you smarter? Apparently, Zell Miller, the Governor of Georgia back in 1998, believed so and proposed a plan to spend $105,000 of the state’s budget to distribute a cassette/CD of classical music, such as Mozart and Bach, to the parents of each new child born in Georgia. However, after reading a New York Time’s article titled “Georgia’s Governor Seeks Musical Start for Babies” by Kevin Sack and the original journal article by Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky titled “Music and Spatial Task Performance: A Causal Relationship,” I discovered that the original evidence does not support Zell Miller’s decision. Zell Miller’s decision was devoted to stimulating brain development in newborn children; however, the original evidence does not support it because the original evidence focuses on preschool children, around the ages of 3 to 4 years old, and college students, not newborn children. Even though the results of the tests from the original journal article showed listening to classical music improved some of the students’ skills pertaining to certain subjects such as object assembly, the studies were not directed to newborn children and thus Zell Miller’s decision is not properly supported by the original article.

Mozart’s effect on intelligence?

After reading the research behind Rauscher’s thoughts, on Mozart having a positive effect on humans abilities to perform better on spatial tasks, I can not say that I am heavily affected in my own thoughts. I personally do not think that his evidence or his test showed outstanding numbers that would be enough to influence me into thinking that Miller’s proposal of spending $105,000 for new mothers to have their children listen to Mozart is in fact worth it. Yes the research did show promise and did in fact prove that the subjects did better when having listened to Mozart, but the test was not conducted on babies… This study was conducted on students at a collegiate university who obviously are of the higher education standards seeing that they are enrolled in a college. Therefor to be able to say that his research would stand up to what Miller believes could help infants is a hard statement to stand by. Without any test involving a development system or long term exposure to people of a younger generation with the ability to grow up listening to Mozart I feel as though no assumptions can be made that Mozart would in fact change the lives of these infants.

The “Mozart Effect”

As a musician who has performed various pieces of Saint-Saens, who was one of the composers which Zell Miller planned to include in his compilation tape, this topic caught my attention. I can hardly recall the number of times I have heard statements made to me by past directors and conductors on how having instrumental musical talent promotes cognitive function and helps reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s Dementia. While pieces such as “Moon River” are enjoyable and in fact soothing, Governor Miller, who claimed to have had extensive research and personal experience with the connection between music and child development, really should have better examined the experimental designs of some of these studies. The 1993 study performed by Rauscher et al. attempted to prove the causal relationship between musical activity and spatial reasoning based on the idea musical activity and complex cognitive functions share inherent neural firing patterns throughout the cortex. They tested this hypothesis on 36 undergraduate students specializing in psychology. This marks Miller’s first flaw in his utilization of this study: the study was not conducted on babies or infants, but was conducted on undergrad psychology students. This means that the obtained results would not be generalizable to Miller’s intended population. Statistical analyses revealed students who listened to Mozart Sonatas did exhibit improvement in spatial reasoning tasks. On the other hand, one result they did fine was that students who were subject to both silence and Mozart Sonata exhibited no significant day-to-day improvement. This finding really does not promote conformation of the hypothesis, as it just shows how Mozart’s Sonatas only facilitate spatial task improvements when participants are exposed to them every time they perform a spatial task. The researchers also experimented on how music could improve short term memory, which they were unable to confirm, probably as the prefrontal cortex, which is underdeveloped in most undergraduates, plays a role in this. They also found preschoolers who had music lessons performed better on object assembly tests. One point made in the research article touched on how music training enhances pattern developments of neuron groups, which appears to be a valid point as it reflects the idea of long-term potentiation. Overall, one statement made in the conclusion reflects my opinion on if Miller’s idea was a good one or not. They state their hopes of integrating music training into schools, as the effect of long-term musical exposure is what appeared to promote the most improvement. I personally believe that music very well affects cognitive performance, but only when someone is repeatedly exposed to musical learning and training for long periods of time, in the same way musicians are for example. Cognitive functions are strengthened best with repeated exposure (promotion of long-term potentiation) throughout one’s lifetime. One final thing to note is that Miller’s idea does not really follow the privacy clause dictated by the 14th amendment. It is unlikely every parent agrees with Miller or the research used by Miller. What is likely is not every parent would appreciate the state attempting to convince them of how best to parent. At the end of the day, it is not the decision of the state to decide what is most helpful for child development, as this is the private right of the parents, not to mention every child is different.

Believing Your Intelligence

Week 9’s First Impression Prompt covers the topic of intelligence. In this discussion, we were asked to watch three videos: Jane Elliott’s classic blue eyes/brown eyes experiment, Claude Steele explaining stereotype threat, and Rosenthal & Jacobson’s discovery of the Pygmalion effect. I will discuss each of these videos in the order listed.

Jane Elliott Brown Eyes vs Blue Eyes ( This video was a demonstration of imposed discrimination the third grade teacher, Jane Elliott, introduced her class to. She separated the class by blue eyes and brown eyes, permitting the blue eyed people to be “superior” to their brown eyed counterparts. She wanted to demonstrate among her kids of how it feels to be discriminated against. She successfully did so; it was quite shocking of just how the children had changed in demeanor so quickly, as she had commented.

Claude Steele explaining stereotype threat ( As learned in Chapter 7, a stereotype threat is where a person feels themselves being at risk for being stereotyped because of some type of social group/class they are in. In this video it is observed that when people have the feeling of being under a stereotypical threat, they will adjust their behavior that ends up fitting more towards the stereotype. In this short clip, psychologists Jeff Stone observed a group of white and black male athletes. He told them that they would be tested for 1) their athleticism, and then 2) their sports strategy skills. The first test the black male group prevailed in, while the second question had the white male students come out on top. This is a match-up with stereotypes, however it is assumed because of the way the questions were presented and expressed. It is disheartening to know that this effect is shown to be true. It does make quite a bit of sense, however I do question the accuracy in these findings. I think it would be much more relevant to prove more of how these people feel that they are being stereotyped versus if it actually is how they are.

Rosenthal & Jacobson’s discovery of the Pygmalion effect ( Two psychologists implanted in teacher’s heads that particular students were ‘late bloomers’ to see the effects it could have. In a short time, they had started to treat their children differently. They had a more positive expectations among their students, which increased their performance in doing well. This falls under the Pygmalion effect, which is the believed effect that higher expectations will lead to an increase in performance ability. Climate, input, response opportunity, & feedback are four factors the psychologists observed effect the children and teachers learning opportunities within the study and how well the child prevailed throughout the next school year. I thought it was interesting how the teachers would pick out the children that were expected to be smarter than the others, while dismissing the other children. It makes me disappointed in many teachers for treating between the ‘types’ of children differently without acknowledging how it will affect them in the future of their education.


All in all, I thought all of these videos were quite interesting and brought out valid points to take note of for the education system. Looking back at my own school experiences, I can firmly believe these instances. In a specific case with myself, there was a time where I was so awful at math. (I still am, just not as much!). The teachers did not do a great deal to help me, or give me outside resources to turn to for a different perspective for help; it was as if they had given up on me. However, a professor that greatly appreciated my desire to become better at math helped me tremendously in giving me extra help as well as encouragement in doing so – so, instead of ending the semester with a low C as expected, I finished with a high B. It helps tremendously is a person – especially an educator – believes in the student, and that they will be successful in learning. There are other factors that can be put into play for being able to comprehend information, however the way a professor, mentor, etc., presents and delivers the information can also have a withstanding impact on the student of individual.

Week 9 First Impression Prompt

Hand writing on a notebook

Here are the two prompts for this week. Regardless of which one you choose, please use the tag “Intelligence.”

Option 1:

Many people consider intelligence to be largely determined by genetics, but there is substantial evidence that the environment and social processes play a large role as well. Since schools are a place where children try to determine how smart they really are, it is important for educators to understand the impacts of their subtle or not-so-subtle interactions with students. Watch these three videos: Jane Elliott’s classic blue eyes/brown eyes experiment, Claude Steele explaining stereotype threat, and Rosenthal & Jacobson’s discovery of the Pygmalion effect. In your blog post, react to what you saw in the videos, reflect on your own interactions with educators throughout your school career, and discuss what, if any, changes to the school system based on the concepts in these videos could improve students’ performance in the classroom.

Option 2:

In 1998, the Governor of Georgia, Zell Miller, proposed spending $105,000 of the state’s budget to distribute a cassette or CD of classical music to the parents of each new child born in Georgia (see the NY Times article). Governor Miller was a staunch believer in the Mozart effect, a theory that listening to Mozart can increase intelligence. The Mozart effect is highly controversial and has spurred numerous research studies, but was based on one study published in 1993. Read the original journal article by Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky and discuss whether or not the original evidence supports Governor Miller’s decision.

I look forward to seeing what you write!

Header image: CC by Flickr user Caitlinator
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Intelligence’s Influences in the Classroom

Although we often think of intelligence as an inherited characteristic only nurtured by schooling, evidence supports the idea of societal and environmental expectations play a larger role than most believe.

The first video we watched was footage of the classic blue-eyes vs. brown-eyes study conducted by Jane Elliott in her third grade classroom, a lesson invented to teach a homogenous group of children about discrimination.  In it, she segregated the students based on their eye color and gave the blue eyed groups a higher value. The brown eyed students protested, of course, and continued to as Elliott set more rules such as “brown eyed students and blue eyed students cannot play together.” At recess, the blue eyed students began to assert their perceived dominance, taunting the other group with undue aggression. This resulted in a fight between two or three of the boys after which the blue eyed boy guessed calling the other a “brown eye” equated to when you call a black man a “n*****”. I found this extremely poignant because it meant Elliott’s lesson had been successful in its aim.

The most interesting point to me, however, was when the rules were reversed to favor the brown eyed students. Rather than treat the blue eyed students with compassion because they’d just been in the same position and judged it unfair, the brown eyed children abused their power just as much. To social psychologists, this is alarming because it says something about our human nature whenever it is left unrestrained. It actually reminds me of recent events regarding the Black Lives Matter movement which began as a peaceful protest group but now has gained errant followers who use physical violence (racism) in response to the very thing they fight against (racism). This sort of irony is ingrained in us, apparently.

The second video death with the phenomena where a person feels threatened by an imposed stereotype and (even unconsciously) fulfills it in order to resist going against the norm. Despite the example in the video being a comparison of the words “athletic” and “strategic” as applied to black and white athletes’ rankings, I think I’ve been affected by stereotype threat myself. In elementary school, for instance, it’s very common to think boys are good at math and girls are good at English. In my class, this proved true. Most of the math whizzes were boys while girls dominated the reading competitions. I wonder if unconsciously one of the reasons I didn’t feel a need to practice my math skills at a young age was because of this self-fuffilled stereotype.

The last video centered around the Pygmalion effect. In Rosenthal and Jacobson’s study they randomly labeled a few kids in a class “late bloomers” after administering a standardized test. This caused the teachers to hold the “late bloomers” to a higher standard due to their future prospects. As a result, these kids made incredible academic progress in comparison to the rest of their class. The researchers determined four factors contributing to this effect:

  1. a warmer climate between student and teacher
  2. a higher information input on the teachers part
  3. an increased opportunities for response
  4. an increased standard for that feedback

I relate all too well to the Pygmalion effect.

In elementary and middle school, standardized testing proved I was “intelligent,” so throughout my education I received special attention. I was always called on in class; I was always praised for my correct answers and constructively critiqued for my wrong ones; I was always greeted with a warm smile and chipper voice; I even received additional resources when I asked a question. In hindsight, it’s very strange to consider maybe I’m not all that more naturally intelligent than anyone else as I had thought in grade school. Maybe I was just provided more environmental stimuli which facilitated a higher knowledge base than my peers.

Due to these videos, I’d say some reforms should probably be considered in the educational system. For one, stereotypes held by students (and teachers) should be neutralized to eliminate stereotype fear. Second, all students should be given the same base level of enrichment and equal opportunities to be encouraged and critiqued. Students should have to take initiative and ask for the additional information to foster an individualized thirst for knowledge.



Jane Elliott Brown Eyes vs Blue Eyes [Video file]. (2012, November 20). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from

Stereotype Threat – social psychology in action [Video file]. (2009, September 28). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from

The Pygmalion Effect and the Power of Positive Expectations [Video file]. (2011, September 25). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from


Jane Elliott’s classic blue eyes/brown eyes experiment: Jane Elliott teaches her class what arbitrary discrimination means by separating them into two groups the inferior blue eyed students and the the superior brown eyed students. By separating them with collars; the students really understood what discrimination was because they were put in situations where they got called names, and couldn’t hang out with one another. Two of the students got into a altercation because the brown eyed student felt “stupid” and left out. One of the students makes a connection and say thats “it’s like other people calling black people niggers.” Elliott’s experiment shows that kids learned about power, and how using power could make people feel useless and worthless and make one group feel superior.

Claude Steele explaining stereotype threat:  In this experiment a group of black and white athletes were instructed to do a golf related task. The task of athletic ability, was done better by the african americans and for as the task of strategy the Caucasians did better. So throughout this experiments we learned about the stereotype threat and how it effects people.

Rosenthal & Jacobson’s discovery of the Pygmalion effect: In this experiment Rosenthal and Jacobson took the Pygmalion effect and show the teachers expectations do have and affect on a students progress. The students names were put into a hat and randomly drawn and they said those students progress will increase over time. So for the teachers giving those students more attention; in the outcome we see that yes students do better when their teacher expects them to do better.

Connections with the videos; With the first video I honestly though it was very interesting how fast people could view other people by separating them into two separate groups. For the second video I can kinda relate to it as in the aspect of people calling Hispanics/Mexicans maids a lot, just because one can’t afford a decent job and have t0 become maids for the wealthy doesn’t mean to discriminate them. It is just apart of life and one has to do what they got to do to keep their life going. For the last video I can relate to it because in elementary school I went to a all minority school and for me i was the star student that was always called on in class and always was the teachers pet, and the other students were not the same, they seemed not to care about the class, where as I was and the teachers would constantly call on me and I succeeded well. Another thing is that I think if a student wants to learn and be engaged in class it should be on them to want to do it. With the school systems i honestly think that no school or student have to be discriminated, hated, or even bullied because it affects the students.



How Using the Pygmalion Effect and Other Psychological Tricks Might Make Education Better

The modern public education system is flawed, I’ve heard no argument to that. Most of the controversy is over how to fix it. I feel that if teachers would use the Pygmalion effect and proper manipulation of stereotype threat, we could see a boost in the system’s efficiency. If we know that the use of stereotypes can affect performance by effecting the students’ confidence levels, then maybe we could find a way to use a positive and encouraging stereotype, like that African Americans are good at sports, to help boost the students’ confidence levels, allowing them to learn better and test better. Also, simple expecting students to perform well can lead to more elevated results. If we could get teachers to have more faith in their students and maintain high expectations for all, then the students should be able to learn better and over all perform better in school. I appreciated these two YouTube videos because I plan on teaching in high school and these might help me to be a better teacher for the kinds of students I’m likely to teach if I move back home and teach at my old high school. The third video however, I found slightly disturbing. I felt that the blue eyes / brown eyes ‘study’ that the teacher, Jane Elliot, conducted on her 3rd grade students was a little immoral. The brown eyed kids must have felt awful. And I’m sure later on in life the blue eyed kids felt terrible for what they did to their classmates, once they were old enough to understand what they did. By dividing the class by eye color and telling them that the kids with blue eyes were superior, Mrs. Elliot created a nasty bullying problem within her class. The kids with brown eyes felt awful. While I do see benefits in doing such a thing, like how after some time and once the kids are old enough to understand it, a lesson could come through. By living through the experience of discrimination, they would likely learn to not discriminate as adults in the functioning world. I feel like in my field of teaching in high school, such a lesson might be better taught to freshmen or sophomores. Of course the students wouldn’t be the ones discriminating so as to prevent excessive bullying, but it would still be an interesting lesson for them that might help them develop. Cycling back to the Pygmalion effect, I remember my high school English teacher, Mr. Kuligowski, held high expectations of me, and I wrote better in his class than I did in any classes before him, or at least I felt like I did. He was one of the first teachers I had that actually seemed to have a personal investment in me, like he actually expected me to do better, not just my class. My take-away from that is that if all teachers could find some sort of investment in all of their students, it might encourage them to put forth more effort and help them perform better in school. All three videos show something that can be applied in school and have a positive long-term effect on students. Of course all three factors wouldn’t work the same way as I the videos, they would have to be tweaked. But after they are tweaked and deployable in the class room, they might help to patch up our broken education system so that it may be at least bearable until a better, broader solution is found. I know that at least one works, Mr. Kuligowski and his high expectations made me write better, so why wouldn’t it work for other students?