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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

When I saw the name Kris Bowers near the top of my Spotify Wrapped last November, I did a bit of a double take. Who even was that? After a quick Google search, I learned that he was the composer behind the soundtrack of the television adaptation of “Bridgerton.” He was my third most listened-to artist of the year. How could I have listened to that many orchestral covers of pop music? The answer was clear to me: the “Bridgerton” and “Queen Charlotte” official Spotify playlist had been my study music of choice for months. Something about the recognizable melodies reworked as classical compositions allowed me to fully tune into my schoolwork.

Many other students will tell you the same thing, that there is a relationship between what you listen to and how productive you are. However, it may shock you to know that it is actually a common misconception that listening to classical music while studying improves reasoning skills and makes someone smarter. In fact, there is extensive research that disproves this myth.

The misbelief originated from a 1993 study led by Frances Rauscher at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Rauscher and her colleagues found that college students’ intelligence quotients (IQs) increased by eight or nine points after listening to Mozart for only ten minutes. This conclusion was supported by another study done by Rauscher in 1997. From this research, Rauscher concluded that musical education increased preschoolers’ spatial-temporal reasoning. Since the ‘90s, this so-called “Mozart effect” has been adopted as a cultural truth in the United States.

Because the belief is so pervasive, many researchers have tried to replicate Rauscher’s results. In a 2002 study, researcher Pippa McKelvie found no significant differences in test scores between people who listened to Mozart and those who listened to pop music. David Bridgett also found no differences between groups who listened to Bach versus groups who listened to Mozart as part of a 2000 study. This article and another by J. S. Jenkins show that elevated reasoning has more to do with enjoying the music itself rather than listening to one specific genre. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you are listening to the musical classics or an instrumental cover of a Harry Styles song—your learning and studying outcomes won’t change either way.

Some researchers have even gone so far as to suggest bias in Rauscher’s original work. For instance, Jakob Pietschnig of the University of Vienna claimed in a 2010 article that Rauscher and her colleagues found that Rauscher’s results were incredibly difficult to replicate. Pietschnig argued that this result could only stem from a lack of objectivity in the lab.

All of this research shows just how ingrained popular psychology is in American society. It also displays the difficulty of changing these cultural beliefs once they have been instilled. Even though the Mozart effect has been disproven, the myth is still prevalent in academia and beyond. It’s important to understand why the claim is false, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change your studying techniques. A truer understanding of the effect is that listening to any music you like can improve your reasoning skills while studying. Take it from someone who will almost certainly have piano covers of Taylor Swift songs in her Spotify Wrapped next year: if listening to a certain kind of music helps you study, keep listening! It just doesn’t have to be Mozart.

Studies neuroscience and Spanish, loves a hot cup of green tea and spends too much time listening to Simon & Garfunkel.