I have to say I’m really embarrassed for and irritated by the recent decision of the UCB music dept to hold a symposium on the late Don Campbell’s pseudoscientific “Mozart Effect” and other writings. Healing at the Speed of Sound, Campbell’s last book, shied away from more extreme claims but still ignored studies in neurological music therapy in favor of anecdotes, omitting real data in favor of Campbell’s pet theories. The book was first published by the group Advanced Brain Technologies, which exists apparently not to conduct research but to sell “teleseminars” and its products, including books, audio recordings, special white-sound recordings, earbuds, and more.
That the school is re-naming the Susan Porter Symposium the “Porter-Campbell” symposium is just as bad. For The Mozart Effect, Campbell, not a terribly good writer and not at all a scholar, borrowed heavily from studies by Tomatis and Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky on whether listening to classical music–they used Mozart in the tests–did anything for your intelligence, spatial reasoning, and general brain health. Along the way he misinterpreted and misconstrued date to his own advantage. Despite the Rauscher et al answer of NO, Campbell trademarked the idea of “The Mozart Effect” and built an industry around selling recordings and workbooks claiming improved health through listening. Raucher’s own commercial enterprises build upon the research at least avoid false claims and use a variety of activities to stimulate young children’s brains. For Healing at the Speed of Sound, Campbell and his co-author suggest that medical treatments can be foregone for musical therapies, among other things, and that creating playlists with particular characteristics can do everything from “heal” mute autistic children to help prevent cancer.
Campbell’s work is a fraud. Campbell made a lot of money by convincing unsuspecting people that his pseudoscientific theories could cure or assist with brain development, healing, autism, and other conditions.
So I’m rather appalled by UCB’s symposium, everyone promoting it, and those involved. I’d have thought they’d have known better. If UCB had wanted to honor Campbell, there were better ways of doing it. But really, I don’t think that someone shilling fake science to make money is a person to honor.
Fortunately, most musicians and plenty of other people have realized what a sham Campbell’s books are. If only the University and School of Music at Boulder would, too.
Science Daily, “Mozart’s Music Does Not Make You Smarter, Study Finds”: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100510075415.htm
Skeptic, “The Myth of the ‘Mozart Effect’”: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/08-02-06/#feature
The Skeptic’s Dictionary, “The ‘Mozart Effect’”: http://skepdic.com/mozart.html
Bruer, John T. The Myth of the First Three Years (Free Press, 1999).
Chabris, C.F. 1999. Prelude or requiem for the ‘Mozart effect’? Nature, 400, 826-827.
Chabris, Christopher and Daniel Simons. 2010. The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us. Crown.
Kandel, Eric R. & James H. Schwartz, eds. Principles of Neural Science 4th ed. (McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, 2000).
Thompson, W.F., Schellenberg, E.G., & Husain, G. 2001. Arousal, mood, and the Mozart Effect. Psychological Science, 12(3), 248-251.
Willingham, Daniel T. 2006. “Brain-Based” Learning: More Fiction than Fact. American Educator. Fall.
The Mozart Effect by Michael Linton, head of the Division of Music Theory and Composition at Middle Tennessee State University
“The Mystery of the Mozart Effect – Failure to Replicate” by Kenneth M. Steele, Karen E. Bass, and Melissa D. Crook in Psychological Science Vol. 10 No. 4 July 1999. Available in PDF format (requires Adobe Reader)