Music and Studying: It’s Complicated

Music and Studying: It’s Complicated

Plenty of people swear by music as a helpful tool for studying and working. Others find it impossible to concentrate with any background noise at all.

Music does offer a lot of benefits , including:

With these in mind, it might seem fairly logical that music can improve your study sessions. But not everyone agrees. So what’s the deal — does it help or not?

Music doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, so the answer to this question is more complex than a straightforward “yes” or “no.”

That said, it’s certainly true that some types of music can boost concentration and memory as well as increase alertness.

Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of studying with music and get some tips for making the most out of your study playlist.

It would be fantastic if you could put on a playlist or song that could help you knock out a problem set or memorize all those dates for your history final, wouldn’t it?

Unfortunately, music isn’t quite that powerful. It mostly helps in indirect ways, but those benefits can still make a big difference. It can motivate you

If you’ve ever grappled with a long, exhausting night of homework, your resolve to keep studying may have started to flag long before you finished.

Perhaps you promised yourself a reward in order to get through the study session, such as the latest episode of a show you like or your favorite takeout meal.

Research from 2019 suggests music can activate the same reward centers in your brain as other things you enjoy. Rewarding yourself with your favorite music can provide the motivation you need to learn new information.

If you prefer music that doesn’t work well for studying (more on that below), listening to your favorite songs during study breaks could motivate you to study harder. It improves your mood

Music doesn’t just motivate you. It can also help reduce stress and promote a more positive mindset.

Research suggests that a good mood generally improves your learning outcomes. You’ll likely have more success with studying and learning new material when you’re feeling good.

Studying can be stressful , especially when you don’t entirely understand the subject material. If you feel overwhelmed or upset, putting on some music can help you relax and work more effectively. It can increase focus

According to a 2007 study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, music — classical music, specifically — can help your brain absorb and interpret new information more easily.

Your brain processes the abundance of information it receives from the world around you by separating it into smaller segments.

The researchers found evidence to suggest that music can engage your brain in such a way that it trains it to pay better attention to events and make predictions about what might happen.

How does this help you study? Well, if you struggle to make sense of new material, listening to music could make this process easier.

You can also link the ability to make better predictions about events to reasoning skills.

Improved reasoning abilities won’t help you pull answers out of thin air come exam time. But you could notice a difference in your ability to reason your way to these answers based on the information you do have.

Other research also supports music as a possible method of improving focus .

In a 2011 study of 41 boys diagnosed with ADHD , background music distracted some of the boys, but it appeared to lead to better performance in the classroom for others. It could help you memorize new information

According to a 2014 study , listening to classical music seemed to help older adults perform better on memory and processing tasks.

These findings suggest certain types of music can help boost memorization abilities and other cognitive functions.

Music helps stimulate your brain, similar to the way exercise helps stimulate your body.The more you exercise your muscles, the stronger they become, right? Giving your brain a cognitive workout could help strengthen it in a similar fashion.Not everyone finds music helpful for tasks that require concentration. It can distract you An important part of music’s impact lies in its power to distract.When you feel sad or stressed, distracting yourself with your favorite tunes can help lift your spirits.But distraction probably isn’t what you’re looking for when you need to hit the books.If you’re trying to argue your position in a term paper or solve a difficult calculus equation, music that’s too loud or fast might just interrupt your thoughts and hinder your process. It can have a negative impact on working memory Working memory refers to the information you use for problem-solving, learning, and other cognitive tasks.You use working memory when trying to remember: items on a list steps for solving a math problem a sequence of events Most people can work with a few pieces of information at a time. A high working memory capacity means you can handle more material. Research suggests, however, that listening to music can reduce working memory capacity.If you already have a hard time manipulating multiple pieces of information, listening to music could make this process even more challenging. It can lower reading comprehension Certain types of music, including fast music, loud music, and music with lyrics, can make it harder to understand and absorb reading material.Whether you’re looking at an evening of Victorian literature or some one-on-one time with your biology textbook, soft classical music with a slow tempo may be a better choice.Listening to music while you study or work doesn’t always make you less productive or efficient.If you prefer to study with music, there’s no need to give it up. Keeping these tips in mind can help you find the most helpful music for work and study: Avoid music with lyrics. Any music that has lyrics in a language you understand will probably prove more distracting than helpful. Choose slow, instrumental music. Existing research generally focuses on classical music, but if you don’t enjoy this genre, you could also consider soft electronic, space, or ambient — […]

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