How Music can be Conducive to Studying

Listening to Mozart as you peruse the library stacks might make you feel smarter, but does it actually work?

In a study conducted at the University of Wales, researchers discovered that music can be distracting during study time, ultimately lowering test scores. Further context on the findings was provided when researchers from the University of Dayton discovered that instrumental music, the classical genre in particular, helped some people concentrate, but results vary depending on the person.

Using Music to Help You Focus

If you decide to try using music to aid concentration, there are a few guidelines you might want to follow:

  • Listen to music before starting a task. Music is great at shifting your mood. So before starting a task, decide what type of mindset you want to be in, and play some music to inspire you. A study of Japanese children concluded that creativity is enhanced after the kids listened to songs they enjoyed.
  • Listen to certain types of music during a task. Music with lyrics can be distracting. It’s like trying to study while someone is holding a conversation with you. But a lot of research shows that repetitive music with a low tonal range (or Kōan music, which is often used as background noise during meditation) significantly increases reading comprehension.
  • Listen to something at some point. Music as a cognitive improvement tool has produced a lot of confusing and conflicting research. Up-tempo versus down-tempo, repetitive versus free flowing, etc. It’s complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. Music releases dopamine, which causes a lot of positive things to happen in your brain. And since research results vary from person to person, your best bet is to use music however you think it’s benefiting you most.

Not all music is going to create the results you want. Some music is ultimately related in your mind to experiences or sensations that will distract you from your studies.

Popular music has been shown to interfere with reading comprehension, as it essentially it talks to you. Lyrics trigger the multitasking functions in your brain, significantly slowing down your information processing speed. If you’re invested in the story of one of your favorite songs, you’re going to be less invested in the words in your textbook.

The Mozart theory (also known as “The Vivaldi Effect” in some research circles) has some credence. For healthy adults, listening to classical music can actually create a powerfully improved working memory compared to silence and white noise.

Again, this varies from person to person. Use music to create an environment or cultivate a mindset. Find out what type of soundtrack your life needs to achieve the results you want.

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