Listening to Music While Studying: Good Motivator or Just a Distraction?
Most students listen to music while studying. With either iPod in ears, iTunes through the computer or even “old fashioned” DVD player going, students across Australia tonight are listening to anything from Beyonce to Good Charlotte to LMFAO (don’t ask) while they do their homework. And inevitably parents in these houses walk past, wondering: “can they really concentrate with that going on in their ears?”
The truth is that there are significant advantages of listening to music while studying
First, most students say listening to music helps them study for longer. This makes sense: homework can be boring. If something can make it slightly less boring, students are slightly more likely to keep doing it for longer. Advantage number two: listening to music has been found to be LESS distracting than listening to random office/household noise. So if the noise of the house is high, then having music to block that out can help students concentrate. Finally: research shows music usually puts students in a better mood. This is helpful because the better mood we are in, the longer we persist on hard tasks and the better we do at difficult tasks: good news for students.
So with all of that, what’s the problem with listening to music while studying?
Research shows that compared to being in complete silence, people are less able to do difficult tasks while listening to music. Almost every study in this area shows that if you give people a problem solving task and then compare people who do it in silence compared to people doing in while listening to music, those working in silence do the task better and quicker than those listening to music. It seems that music interferes with our attention and cognitive skills. This is especially true for music with lyrics, music that is unpredictable and interestingly, it is also especially distracting for introverts compared to extroverts.
So there are upsides, and downsides. Here are the recommendations I give students about this issue:
Listen to music when you feel like you really “have to” – when you are bored, in a bad mood or are tempted to prematurely stop (or can’t start) homework.
Listen to music if your house/study environment is quite noisy and you can’t shut out this (usually unpredictable) noise any other way.
BUT recognise that you will not be doing your absolutely best work when listening to music. Therefore try to do three things:
- Turn the music off when you are doing something quite hard (e.g revising for a test or trying to understand difficult concepts)
- Listen to music without lyrics if you can (e.g classical, electronica), music that has a predictable beat/tune or music that is very familiar to you
- Turn the music down a couple of notches compared to the volume you listen to it normally
I hope this helps. Like most issues, it's not black and white - but these recommendations can help parents and teens find some constructive middle ground.
If your teen would like some one on one study skills coaching, or help with dealing with a stressful issues then you can find out about appointments via clicking here to go to the counselling info page. Please note, that if your teen does not want to attend sessions but as a parent you would like some ideas in responding to and supporting your teen, we see parents on their own frequently for sessions also.
While sitting down to study in the Findlay Commons I look around and notice all the different study habits between students. A certain study habit is more effective for someone in comparison to others because all brains work differently when trying to integrate memorization or muscle memory. A study shows the most effective study habits include practicing by yourself, memory games, and going to your own quiet place. Those ways are typically the way I study. But, when I walk around the commons I notice more people than not wearing headphones and studying. I never really understood the reasoning of listening to music while studying because it is another voice in your head that takes away the sole purpose of memorization. Since I never understood the meaning for this interesting study habit, I researched whether music leads to better results for those that listen to it.
I tried to listen to music while studying and could not focus on the task at hand. But, a study shows that music is beneficial when studying. A study done by Elana Goodwin states, “Studies have shown that listening to music before studying or performing a task can be beneficial as it improves attention, memory, and even your ability to do mental math as well as helping lessen depression and anxiety.” The researchers typically compare this to the Mozarts Effect. For those who do not know, the Mozarts Effect is a study that shows while listening to Mozart’s music one receives a short-term improvement in their capabilities.
But, I found a flaw in there correlation with Mozarts Effect. I walked up to 10 different kids in the Findlay commons that were studying for a quiz or midterm and listening to music. I proceeded to ask them what genre of music they were listening to and whom. The responses varied from rap, to pop, to country, but none of them had Mozarts’ pieces playing in their earbuds. The survey take was very small, but typically high school/college students who have proven to benefit from listening to music while studying are listening to different genres.
Another study done also proves that listening to music can effect studying. But, the studying must be an organizational related study. Perham, the researcher involved in the study claims, “Listening to music may diminish your cognitive abilities in these situations because when you’re trying to memorize things in order, you can get thrown off and confused by the various words and notes in the song playing in the background.” The organization of one’s study can be altered because of the words or beat that is constantly in one’s head. The music genre does not matter, the sound effects the performance in itself.
The studies shown prove that music can be both beneficial and digressive. Differentiating between the type of study someone is engaged in plays a key factor. Also, the person’s tolerance level to noise and whether they use it progressively can determine whether they listen to music while studying. Studying should not be based off other peoples’ opinions of how study. There is no better way to study but your own because different study habits make one more comfortable in comparison to others. This study shows that I should not be so quick to judge other students and how they study because maybe they find it beneficial. Some people succeed when put in specific scenarios, and one scenario I will never find useful is music during study hours, but people are different and results vary.