Parents Perspective

Fact or Fiction: Can Mozart Make Babies Smarter?

Can hearing classical music in the womb really make your baby smarter?

headphones-on-pregnant-belly.jpg Shutterstock
As a parent, you want to do whatever you can to give your kid a leg up in the world, even before he's born. Some things moms can do to benefit their fetus' health are obvious—stop drinking, stop smoking, take folic acid and other prenatal vitamins—but, of course, not everything parents-to-be do are as mainstream or completely supported by science.

I still hear stories from my dad about what my mother did "for my health" while I was still in the womb. Apparently, she would eat orange rinds to maximize my natural vitamin C intake, swallow burst fish oil gel capsules so that I could "absorb their nutrients more directly," and play classical music through headphones placed on her belly to boost my intellect. My parents spent hundreds of dollars on Baby Einstein videos.

While vitamins and nutrients definitely help your baby (though I do question my mother's methods), it turns out playing classical music to increase your fetus' IQ is just plain untrue. If you've also been tricked into believing this, don't feel too bad. It's one of "parenting's most persistent myths," according to Quartz.

This myth was primarily driven by a 1993 experiment, done by researchers at UC Irvine, that found listening to Mozart provided its college-aged research subjects a temporary boost in their spatial IQ. From there, the myth took off, spurning the creation of Baby Einstein videos and some rather strange, albeit inventive products.

Ultimately, "there is just no good evidence that listening to Mozart, or listening to anything, does anything for intelligence or cognitive skills in domains that are not musical," according to Samuel Mehr, a student at Harvard's Graduate School of Education who studies the origins and functions of music. However, there aren't any negative effects of playing womb tunes for your baby, so you can rest easy knowing that, at the very least, you're not harming your child.

Look at me, I think I turned out just fine!

Zach Verbit is an Editorial Intern at Parents magazine.