Studying can be real boring. It’s slog to just keep reading notes after notes in silence. So, what do you do? You put on some headphones and plug in some tunes to help liven the mood. But does studying with music actually help you? You might assume it just does but the topic is more complicated than you think. Read on to find out why.
The Mozart Effect
First, let us talk about the most famous research involving studying with music, The Mozart Effect. The Mozart Effect refers to the belief that listening to classical music makes you smarter. In the original experiment, researchers had students listen to either Mozart’s piano sonata, relaxation music, or nothing at all before performing a spatial reasoning task. It was found that those listening to Mozart performed significantly better on the task.
After it was published, people somehow assumed that it meant listening to classical music increased your IQ. A whole industry was launched because of this. People started selling CDs of Beethoven for Babies with the promise that listening to classical music will make your future child into a genius.
However, it is very important note that the results were only applicable to the specific spatial reasoning task and the ‘enhanced cognition’ only lasted 15 minutes. Even though, it is a well propagated myth, The Mozart Effect has remains a controversial subject. A number of studies have actually failed to replicate the original results. Nevertheless, subsequent studies have found that that studying with music does have some distinct advantages.
How Music Helps
Engages in Your Attention
Subsequent studies on the Mozart Effect, found it wasn’t classical music in particular that caused the effect. As long as the music was interesting and engaging enough, the mind would be stimulated. A study by the University of Standford, engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory. According to the lead researcher, “the process of listening to music could be a way that the brain sharpens its ability to anticipate events and sustain attention.”
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
We all know it! Music has the ability to soothe the beast within. Music is an incredible stress management tool. For some before you even start studying, you’re already shaking and sweating in dread! The stress has numerous negative effects including lack of motivation and focus, irritability, tiredness and even physical discomfort. Music has been shown to lower cortisol levels and reduce anxiety. This helps especially during long and tiring study sessions.
Don’t Listen to Music That Has:
Though we did state that music does help you become more engaged, it becomes a problem if you pay too much attention. Music with lyrics in particular has a negative effect, especially when you are reading and writing. It is due to a limitation of cognitive resources, both listening and interpreting lyrics and reading and interpreting words utilize your comprehension abilities. It’s even worse when you try to memorize things. Hence, it will divide your attention. Still, researchers state it likely has less of an effect on math because you are not using language areas of your brain.
Loud or agitating music also drains a significant amount of your attention. Studying with music that is fast, frenetic with an upbeat tempo or overly stimulating may will likely make it hard to concentrate. In an experiment, primary school students doing math with loud aggressive music did the worst compared to others who listen to calm pleasant music or did it in silence. That means, no hard rock and roll, or rapid fire K pop songs, unfortunately. You want to be pumped up but not too pumped up!
Listen to Music That Is:
Relaxing But Not Too Relaxing
Conversely, you can’t be too tuned out. Don’t go ahead and fall asleep there! If it’s too boring, it may run the risk of turning into complete background noise. There is an optimal level where it is arousing but not overly stimulating. Hence the key is to find relaxing music you are interested in. If you aren’t a classical music guy, go listen to some chill hop or folk music instead.
Obviously, if the music is too heavy and emotional, it will distract. So keep it light and easy. A number of research has shown positive mood consolidates memories better. So, crying while listening to Adele isn’t going to help you get an A.
Ultimately, though it may even differ among individuals. Some individuals work best in silence, some need music. We each have different attention spans. But in general try listening to instrumental, jazz, classical, chill hop or lounge piano while you are studying with music. Let me leave you with my personal favorite studying with music playlists. Happy listening and studying!