Can Music Really Help You Study More Effectively?

As a student, I almost always listened to music during studying and homework sessions. But does music actually help you focus and study more effectively – or is it just a distraction?

“Whatever your preference, I’m sure you love listening to your favorite artists every chance you get— maybe even while you study. Is playing your favorite song an easy way to make that homework bearable, or are you hurting your performance?

Previous research has found numerous benefits to listening to music before performing a task– it improves attention, memory, and even mental math ability. It has also been found to alleviate depression and anxiety.

However, the more realistic scenario is that students will study or do homework while playing “background music.” A recent study at the University of Wales looked at how background music affects students’ ability to complete a serial recall (remembering items in a specific order) test.

Students were given a serial recall test in five different scenarios–

1. A quiet environment

2. With “steady state” speech. This means a single word (in this case, “three”) was repeated for the duration of the test

3. With “changing state” speech. This means a variety of words (in this case, random digits from 1-9) were played during the test

4. With “liked” music, meaning a song of the students choice (such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, or Arcade Fire). Students brought in their own music, the only requirement was that it had to have vocals

5. With “disliked” music, which in this case was a metal song called “Thrashers” by Death Angel (all students in the study disliked metal)

The researchers expected that the changing state speech would have the most detrimental effect on the students’ performance. Think about it like this– changing state is like having to do your homework while someone else is talking. Steady state is more like repetitive background noise (a noisy heater, for example), which is easier to tune out.” http://www.mindthesciencegap.org/2012/10/08/does-music-help-you-study/

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