Is there “music that makes you dumb?” According to a CalTech grad student named Virgil Griffith there is. Griffith has conducted a somewhat unscientific study comparing music preferences of college students on Facebook with SAT scores.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the results are somewhat interesting.
“For example, the favorite musician of the smartest students was Beethoven, with an average SAT score of 1371. Also on the “smart” end of the scale were Sufjan Stevens (1260), Counting Crows (1247), and Radiohead (1220). And sadly for Lil Wayne, enjoying his music was associated with being the dumbest, with an average SAT score of 889.”
The idea that Beethoven is enjoyed by the mentally gifted is not surprising. That Lil Wayne-as well as Ludacris, according to Virgil Griffin’s chart-is enjoyed by the mentally challenged is also not a surprise. They are rappers, after all, and nothing good comes from listening to that sort of music.
But one wonders how scientific the “music that makes you dumb” study is. Taking n unofficial survey of my close friends, I found the following. One likes British rock bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Another likes Medieval sacred music. Still another likes Cat Stevens and Gordon Lightfoot. I like classical and Celtic folk. Mind, my circle of friends tends to be older than the college students Virgil Griffith used in his “music that make you dumb” study and are of above average intelligence.
And the very premise of “music that makes you dumb” is somewhat suspect. Is it the “music that make you dumb” or to dumb people like certain kinds of music? Certainly the sort of person who likes “Ode to Joy” is a bit different than someone who gets off on listening to lyrics about wasting cops and beating up on women.
There a story of a store owner in a rundown neighborhood who had a problem with local hoodlums loitering outside his store, scaring off the customers. The store owner hit upon the idea of piping out classical music to the outside of his store. The tactic worked in that it drove away all of the loitering hoodlums except for one young man who actually liked classical music. The store owner gave him a job.
There is, one supposes, a lesson in that. If you want to get ahead in life, there is nothing like Beethoven and Mozart to sharpen the mind and impress other people.
Meanwhile, Virgil Griffin has another study called “books that make you dumb.” The favorite book for the gifted? Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov’s classic about pedophilia. There is something disturbing in that result.
Source: Books and Music That Make You Dumb, Marisa Taylor, Wall Street Journal, February 27th, 2009