Vivaldi Music Makes You Smarter, Maybe

music might make you smarter

So-called uplifting Vivaldi music can help you focus and react faster than if you were allowed to work in peace and quiet, according to a study published this month in Experimental Psychology by a team headed by Dr. Leigh Riby from the UK’s Northumbria University. That isn’t exactly how they described it, but it’s how this disgruntled writer reads the results.

The research was performed on 14 young adults who were given the excruciatingly dull job of pressing a space bar on a keyboard when the right symbol popped up on their computer monitor. They were tested both in silence and while listening to four Vivaldi concertos.

They could hit the right key in about 394 milliseconds while listening to the sprightly “Spring” concerto, in 408 milliseconds while working in silence, and in 413 milliseconds while listening to the gloomy “Autumn” concerto. The good professor’s takeaway from his study was to suggest that listening to uplifting music can increase your ability to focus.

Now as a bitter angry human being subjected to piano lessons as a child, I’m going confess that I’m finding it a stretch. Yes, if you’re bored to tears doing stupid stuff that probably doesn’t really need to be done, anything that keeps you awake probably helps and anything that puts you to sleep probably hurts. I reported previously for The Inquisitr on a Cardiff University study that showed that chewing gum also worked to increase your focus.

The idea that music can help you perform has had its ups and downs over the years. The so-called Mozart Effect, the claim that listening to classical music could make kids smarter, went back to 1993 research that studied the effect of “Sonata For Two Pianos” on college students. Several later studies failed to back it up.

Riby decided to study music from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in particular because it has become one of the best-known pieces of classical music, re-used relentlessly in advertising and the movies — and even to sell alleged brain-enhancing training devices. He concluded that there’s something special about the positive nature of that particular piece that allows the music to promote “overall activity within the brain…[with]…an exaggerated effect on the area of the brain that’s important for emotional processing.”

Perhaps, but why don’t they ever do these music and brain studies on a piece of modern music that hasn’t been done to death?

I, for one, say that it isn’t all that positive to work to Vivaldi music I’ve heard in an elevator a thousand times. Who’s with me?

[sheet music photo courtesy Aricadya for Deviant Art and Creative Commons]