There are two kinds of students: ones that study only with peace and absolute silence around them, and the ones that have their headphones on the entire time, listening to music. But which one of them is doing the right thing? Is it actually better off to work in silence, or does music actually help in the studying process by strengthening memory and enabling you to be more creative? I myself have been on the fence on this topic, so I decided to investigate to see if music has added benefits while studying.
Sometimes, listening to music can just be distracting. There are definitely some disadvantages to the study-music combo. A study in 2010 concluded that listening to music, whether it is something you like, or dislike, can worsen results in serial memory tasks than silence According to this theory, we could get thrown off by the changing lyrics and notes of a song, which could impair our cognitive functioning.
However, several other studies claim that music can actually be beneficial. It is important to note that this may depend on the type of music you choose to listen to. The popular Mozart Effect was a phenomenon noticed in a study where participants’ spacial reasoning temporarily increased because of the Mozart sonata in comparison to listening to other kinds of music, or no music at all. Although, this effect is debatable because it has been hard to replicate these findings and the effect is only short-term.
The effect of background music on efficiency can be complex. It could depend on the task that is tested. For example, a study found that music helped participants score better in a vocabulary final, but another finding claimed that abstract reasoning was hindered due to listening to background music. I’ve noticed that I prefer music when I’m doing subjects like math, rather than when I’m trying to cram the day before my psychology quiz. Personality traits could also skew the effect of music while studying; it was found that introverts would be better off without music, if the task at hand was complex and required abstract reasoning.
Of course, the effect of music also depends on the type of music you listen to. Studies have shown that positive results have been found when participants are subjected to pleasant music, whereas neutral music can be easily ignored. This could be explained by the mood-activation hypothesis that states that when you listen to music you like, your mood is elevated due to the release of dopamine in your body. The condition with aggressive or unpleasant music fared the worst during this experiment. Changes in tempo in the song are said to interrupt thought, which can be distracting.
To conclude by answering the question “should you listen to music while studying?,” my answer would be: it depends! It depends on you, your personality, the music you listen to, and things like what task you have at hand. In my experience, music helps some people concentrate and focus, but works the total opposite way on others, just causing distractions. Trying is the only way to find out! So what do you think, would you listen to music the next time you have to study for those pesky midterms?
Listening to Music while Studying: A Good or a Bad Idea? From http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/11/10-1
Does Music Help Memory? From http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201312/does-music-help-memory
Music may harm your studying, study says. From http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2010/07/27/music-may-harm-your-studying-study-says/
How music could help you to concentrate on work. From http://www.independent.co.uk/student/student-life/Studies/how-music-could-help-you-to-concentrate-while-studying-a6907341.html