Music Helps Plants Grow – False Science

One of the myths of gardening is that “music makes plants grow better”. This analysis of the original experiment by a reputable scientist puts the “music-plant collection” to bed:

Case Study: The Sound of Music and Plants

 Published 30 years ago

 Author was undergraduate student assisted by biology professor

 Concludes that classical music benefits plant growth, while acid rock music has a
negative effect

 Cited by numerous websites as scientific evidence

No scientific rationale or hypothesis is presented. Author was a music major required to take a biology course for her degree. Her stated rationale was “What in the world can I do with music and plants!”

No relevant scientific foundation for experiments. The author cites several professors and/or doctors, who are experts in fields such as physics and theology, but there are no citations in the biological sciences.

Citations do not support project. The book contains 40 footnotes, but only two are relevant to the subject of plant growth and sound (not music). The others are either irrelevant or nonscientific.

Author lacks objectivity. The author compares plants to humans in terms of having “likes and dislikes, their feelings and idiosyncrasies.” This is poor reasoning and biases her expectations.

Unacceptable data analysis
 Only four replicates are used, which is below the usual minimum
 The experiment is not repeated
 There are no statistical data provided

Scientific reasoning is not applied. The author claims that “beyond a doubt the phenomenon itself (the effect of music on plants) has been proven.” One cannot “prove” a hypothesis.

Faulty experimental design. Variables such as water and light are not consistently maintained. For instance, the potting containers were Styrofoam drinking cups with no drainage, and watering
needs were “determined by touching the soil with a finger.”

Not peer-reviewed. The publisher specializes in New Age literature, not science.

Not recognized by science. The research itself was never published in a peer-reviewed journal, nor has any replication of the work appeared in the scientific literature.

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott
Associate Professor and Extension Horticulturist
Washington State University

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