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Should You Listen to Music while Studying?

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?

References

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

10 Comments

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  1. Yeah I’ve been a little bothered by this topic for some time because I get this a lot from many people whether they’d proclaim their focus due to music or they naysayers who say otherwise. I do agree with you that it really depends on the person who prefers it or not. Some may study better with it and some wont but in my opinion it really depends on their personality and how their brain functions. I also like how you let the reader decide on how to answer this question which is fair. All in all great article, keep up the good work.

  2. I have tried listening to music while studying and I guess it all just depends on so many factors. First, if the person himself is used to listening to music. If he can concentrate better with music or not. It’s like people who can sleep better with lights on or with lights off. Second, the kind of music you’re listening to. I did a little research on it before as to what kind of music can help you study better since i’m the one to listen while studying. And i read that songs with slower beats are better than those than fast beats. One example i remember that was given was “we can’t stop” by miley cyrus. But i know some friends who can study well listening to rock music. Third, they say that it’s better to listen to songs without lyrics. But some want lyrics. For me, i’d prefer listening to music rather than listening to people chatting. Because i notice when you’re really deeply concentrated with studying – thinking, memorizing… it’s like your mind will focus on that sometimes you forget you’re listening to music. And i know there are other several factors still. But i believe, one can study well on whatever their preferences are.

  3. As this article highlighted to be likely, whether or not I listen to music depends upon my mood and the subject.

    I tend to listen to music for while reading or studying for language courses and history classes.

    However I preferred silence when reading my ethics in technology materials.

    Generally, I listen to calming music which may vary from Chopin to chillwave to Indonesian traditional to My Morning Jacket. Just depends.

  4. I tried this more than one time, and this is right, depends on the person and on the type of music. If I put music that I like, I found myself distracted singing along for example, so I have to put instrumental music, something I don’t like or that don’t catch my attention. Otherwise, I am making video clips for the music and I don’t concentrate on reading.

    But in general, music or noise in the background helps me with studying and memorize things. And when the time comes, in front of the paper ready to start answering the test, sometimes I remember the answer associating the visual memory with what was I listening while reading.

  5. I myself found that certain types of music is good for studying as it doesn’t disturb my concentration while others can be quite distracting. I tend to listen to classical music or pink floyd’s instrumental songs while studying, but it depends on the subject I’m working on.
    Do you recommend any types of music that might be helpful, such as classical or easy listening?
    Is there a specific personality type associated with the type of people who find it beneficial, i.e. auditory learners vs visual learners?

  6. Im tiring of the whole “Mozart Effect” thing. It is my personal belief that classical music is deemed “intelligent” so all of these studies come around stating hey you should listen to Mozart. More contemporary music is viewed as not having any substance so no you shouldn’t listen to that. It’s all complete bs to me. Should you listen to music when you study? It’s all up to you? You know what works best for you. There’s too many studies for everything. I think people should think for themselves every once and a while.

  7. As a student, I really appreciate what you’re trying to do here. Study tips are such scarce sources these days and I wouldn’t mind learning a thing or two that could help improve my study habits.

    When you say “serial memory tasks” for the second paragraph? What kind of tasks are those? It would help to give examples so readers understand the specifics of your research.

    It’s true that the effects to music on a person’s studying productivity needs to take note of a lot of variables. For examples, is that their favorite subject? Is that their major subject? What’s the exam going to be like? What song are they listening to? Are they familiar with that song? Are they used to studying? Are they getting ample lighting? There are many things to consider because a person’s studying environment has a lot of variables to control.

    You started of shakily, your middle was a bit unstructured but sophisticated, and your conclusion was a bit weak. If you’re going to tell the readers that the answer to your introduction depended on them, they would not have clicked your article in the first place. But nevertheless, this is a great inquiry, it really touches important contemporary subjects. Hope you write more!

  8. A short but interesting read. I agree that it is determined based on the individual. I also appreciate that you went through the different theories [and explained a bit about them, as well] whilst debating about the subject as a whole.

  9. “A study in 2010 concluded that listening to music, whether it is something you like, (no comma needed) or dislike, can worsen results in serial memory tasks than silence According” – you’re missing a period here 🙂
    Personally, as an introvert sensitive to lots of stimuli, listening to music while learning is very distracting to me. However, it is not the case while taking notes or reviewing material. I have read before that “the best” music to study with is classical music (no words basically) or songs in the language you are not familiar with. Sadly, I found that listening to any kind of music distracts me from learning and instead of focusing on what is in front of me, I get carried away by the melody (but then, how is it different from staring at the wall for half an hour? :))

    Have a great day!

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Should You Listen to Music while Studying?