Truth Behind Listening to Music While Studying

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There is more behind listening to music while studying than people may think!

Jeanelle Wu, Photojournalist

Everyone has their fair share of teachers that do not tolerate listening to music while working in class and those who encourage it. The topic of music has become controversial with people arguing that it is beneficial and others that it is distracting. So, who is right? Is there even a right and wrong answer, or is it just personal preference? Will listening to music while studying help students ace their next exam? Does it depend on the person or simply the style of music they are listening to? The opinions have been heard and rebutted for years. It’s time to unveil the truth and see what science shows.

I enjoy listening to indie music when I work, [because] it makes me more productive.”

— Nikita Gupta

Despite what some people think, music can be a motivator, promote a positive mood, and increase focus. This includes listening to music during study or work breaks, which will boost work ethic and creative mindset (healthline.com). Certain kinds of music, typically relaxing music, can help reduce stress while working and can put people in a good mood, which in effect will benefit learning and studying. People will likely learn and retain knowledge better when they are in a good mood and are not stressed out. Also agreeing that listening to music while working is beneficial, Nikita Gupta (10) shares how she “enjoy[s] listening to indie music when [she] work[s], [because] it makes [her] more productive.” 

However, it all depends on the type of music people listen to, which will have different effects on the brain. A study done in 2007 showed that classical music, specifically, helped the brain absorb and learn new information more efficiently (Stanford University School of Medicine). Additionally, scientific evidence shows that music engages the brain to train it to pay more attention and make predictions (healthline.com). This directly correlates with studying and learning when it comes to school because listening to music can help students understand the material being taught, develop necessary reasoning and foreshadowing skills, and improve focus. 

On the other side of the spectrum, research has also shown that music can be distracting, negatively affect memorizing information, and decrease reading comprehension (healthline.com). For example, it may not be the best idea to listen to a hard rock song on full volume when trying to write an essay since it will be hard to concentrate. Since listening to music also reduces memory capacity, it will be difficult to study multiple subjects and try to memorize information while listening to music. Relating back to the distracting factor of music, listening to music while reading can make the reading comprehension harder, and it will be harder to absorb the material being read (healthline.com). However, these negative drawbacks to listening to music depend on the type, style, and other characteristics of the music. At YLHS, there are also many students who think that music does more harm than good when studying, such as Yuna Shin (10), who is able to “work better and focus” with no music, and “if [she] had the choice to listen to music while [she was] working in class, [she] would not.”

As stated before, the music style that is most commonly related to the benefits of listening to music while working is classical music. On the other hand, there are many genres and types of music that will have the opposite, negative effect when working. To ensure that the music is beneficial and not distracting, it is best to listen to slower, instrumental music with no lyrics, which has proven to be less of a distraction (7pace.com). It is also important to not put the music on blast to the point where one cannot hear themselves think, and instead should put the music at a lower volume. The music should stay at a background volume, just enough to drown out other noises that can be even more distracting (7pace.com). Lastly, although it may be hard for some people to hear, it is not the best choice to listen to a song that one feels strongly towards (healthline.com). Many people’s first instinct when listening to music is to play their favorite song and all the songs they love. While this can put people in a positive mood, it will most likely affect people’s ability to concentrate, especially on schoolwork. Some people will not be able to resist the urge of singing or dancing along to one of their favorite songs, and it will affect their concentration.

While the specific music that is playing plays a part in the effectiveness of working and listening to music, the person who is doing so is just as much of a factor in the equation. Each individual is unique, and while some things have been scientifically proven, each person’s personality and behavior is not factored into the research or experiments. This is supported in a study whose results showed that extroverts did better on a memory test when listening to music while introverts did worse, but introverts did significantly better on the memory test when they were not listening to music (Applied Cognitive Psychology Journal). 

Therefore, science does show that certain types of music have positive effects on the brain, which in theory should improve studying and working. However, there are many other factors that come into play including personality and the actual music. Since everyone is different, it is a good idea to test out listening to music while working. Who knows, listening to the right kind of music could be the key to one of the best studying methods and may be the secret to getting a better grade.