There have been multiple studies that suggest that listening to music whilst studying can increase your productivity and focus. But what types of music have the greatest benefits and what does the scientific evidence reveal about the way our brains absorb information when we are listening to auditory stimuli?
What Does Science Say?
A popular study from 2007, conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine showed significant evidence that listening to music, particularly classical music, when learning, engages your brain to process information quickly and more efficiently than if you study in silence. It also found that the participants in the study made better predictions and listening to music improved their overall reasoning skills. Unlike when your brain uses language processing to engage and listen to music with lyrics. When listening to classical music, the brain focuses on the pitch, speed, and volume of the music and doesn’t distract your attention away from the task.
So does classical music increase productivity? Many studies credit classical music as a beneficial tool to improve academic performance, including university research in France, which discovered that students who listened to a lecture with classical music playing in the background scored much higher in a quiz testing their knowledge of the lecture compared to a similar group of students who listened to the lecture without music. It is also well established that classical music increases divergent thinking, which is responsible for creativity and coming up with innovative concepts. Another study from 2017, from a university in Germany found that happy music boosted creativity levels. So next time you are studying, why not turn up the volume and listen to some music to uplift and inspire you? Classical music may just open your mind and clear up some much-needed space to absorb more information and learn something new.
What about your memory? There have been multiple studies finding a correlation between music and memory. In 2015, a study found a lot of conflicting data regarding listening to background music when doing tasks involving memory. It discovered that listening to nature sounds had anxiety-reducing effects but there were no noticeable effects on studying performance. One of the most famous studies, known as the Mozart effect has been discredited as it put forward the idea that listening to classical music increased a person’s spatial reasoning skills and it soon snowballed into the idea that listening to classical music increased a person’s IQ. There is still a lot of research to be done to prove that there is a solid link between music and studying and the positive effects that music has on concentration, memory, and performance. However, there are a lot of students that can see the difference in their motivation and concentration when listening to classical music.
Is It Only Classical Music That Works?
Although science favors Mozart and Chopin to listen to during your study hours, is it the only sound or type of music you should listen to? The short answer is, of course not. Many students find that instrumental music, particularly those with piano or guitar melodies can also be beneficial when studying. If you find that even music with no words can distract you, why not try ASMR? ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which is a bit of a mouthful! Even though it has a complicated name, ASMR is simply background noise that is highly pleasing to the listener. A good example of this is the gentle sounds of nature such as birds chirping in the trees or the subtle sounds of a library or cafe.
So why does this also work? In a study in 2015, by researchers Barratt and Davis, they discovered that ASMR boosted the mood of 80% of the participants in the study and helped to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety in the students. It is important to remember that a happy and healthy mind will always retain more information, so ensure that you are looking after your mental health to study to the best of your ability. If you are looking for the perfect selection of ambient sounds for your study session, why not try the StudyStream WebApp, choose from a variety of set playlists including deep in the forest, a cafe in the park, or heavy rain, or use the customizable sliders to create your own.
Distraction or concentration?
One type of music might distract one student but may increase the focus of another, but why is this? We are all different. Firstly, our brains are more likely to ignore the background music if the song or melody is familiar to us, whereas a song that you enjoy may engage you and pull your attention away from the material you are studying. Secondly, we all have different tastes in music regarding genre, complexity, and meaning. If classical music doesn’t bring you joy, why not try some instrumental jazz, atmospheric rock, or instrumental electronic music? The key to finding the perfect music for studying is being aware of if the music is complementing your studying or overwhelming it. If it’s the latter, then it might be time to try something else.
It is also important to note that there is a variety of studying tasks you could be taking part in, whether that is reading, annotating, answering questions, or completing a practice test. You may find that listening to music whilst completing a test might distract you but listening to jazz music when you are reading helps you retain more information. Maybe you can create a playlist of different tracks and see what works best for you. The StudyStream web app has an integrated music player, so you can add your instrumental Spotify playlist and listen to it whilst you join one of the many focus rooms, to study with other students from across the world.
So, what is the final verdict? Do music and studying work together? Yes, they do. But remember, there are many factors to consider when choosing the right music for the suitable study task. Stay clear of music with lyrics and if you want the best music to improve your concentration backed up by science and research, listen to classical music.