Working with Music

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-4-55-28-pm Image Found Here!

Class Test 2. We all saw the results during class on October 11. The grades were not all that impressive. Maybe you’re wondering how you can improve your grade for next time. Reflect: were you listening to music while you took the test?

Class Test 1. I took this test in complete silence in the library. I scored a decent grade, but I know I could’ve done better.

Class Test 2. I took this in my dorm room.

I live in a supplemental dorm with six other roommates. At times, I love it. At other times, I get a little frustrated. I love my roommates, but it was as if they conspired against me while I took this test. All of them were in the room at the same time, which is actually pretty rare. One was FaceTiming her friend and hysterically laughing. Another was watching a movie on her laptop without headphones in. A set of two were having a conversation and painting their nails on the floor. One was doing laundry and chores and talking on the phone simultaneously, and the last was heating up food, and the microwave was beeping and I heard crunching and chewing and shuffling. I hardly ever listen to music while I study or do work, but that was what I had to resort to so I could block out the sound; so I wouldn’t have to leave my room (I was feeling a bit lazy, okay?).

I ended up scoring an amazing score on Class Test 2! I was shocked. With all of these distractions masked by another distraction, my super loud music, I actually scored better on the test. I was mind blown!

Is listening to music beneficial to your studies?

My hypothesis is that my improved score was due to confounding variables or that my better score was due to chance. I normal cannot focus when I have music on.

A study I came across on Wiley Online Library, summarized also by Sheela Doraiswamy, suggests that my notion was correct. Music and background noise are actually distractions and do not improve test grades.

In this experiment, students were given tests where there were various background-noise circumstances. They took the tests in silence, a place in which there was a repeated word over and over and over again in the background, one where there was normal conversation occurring in the background, one where music the student liked was played in the background, and one where music the student disliked was played in the background.

The worst scores came from the place in which there was regular background conversation or with music (both music they liked and music they didn’t). So, assuming the results of the study imply causation, I guess I wasn’t really helping myself out when I switched from the distraction of my roommates to the distraction of my own music.

The students received the highest scores when one word was repeated over and over in the background, or when they were in complete science.

Perhaps the reason that I did better on Class Test 2 was because of confounding variables or chance after all, based on this study. I am certain that I spent much more time and was a bit more meticulous when answering questions on Class Test 2, attempting to improve from Class Test 1. For some reason, the music wasn’t damaging to my grade. I am certain the music was distracting me, though: once in a while, I caught myself zoning out and singing along to myself. If a song I didn’t like came on, I would skip through my music until I found a song I wanted to hear, and then it would take me a few minutes to re-focus on the test.

So based on the correlations of these studies and ignoring the strangeness of the incidence here where I did better on Class Test 2, you might want to try to take the next test in silence! Putting in more effort and taking the test where there are no distractions will probably get you a higher grade.

9 thoughts on “Working with Music

  1. Pedro de Mello

    This is interesting because while music can be distracting to some people, it is known to be a neural stimulant. It really depends on whether you can or cannot focus on a task while being stimulated aurally, but music can make one more creative and better at solving logical problems, as well as having an important socio-psychological aspect to it. I guess music is something far more beneficial than we think it to be.

  2. Danielle Megan Sobel

    I find myself really resonating with this topic. I cannot study efficiently with music on or any surrounding noise. I find that if there is relaxing music on I will dose off into a sleepy stage and become unfocussed, or on the other hand sing along to upbeat tunes and will not focus on the task at hand. I have heard a rumor once that if you chew gum while studying, and chew the same flavor while you take the test, you will do better. I don’t know if this is entirely true, but I wanted to look into it:

  3. rvs5567

    I am really glad you talked about this topic. It is a huge problem for students, ecspecially when they are stuck in a situation that you just talked about. I am a huge advocate for studying with absolutely no distractions. This only started 2 years ago though. During freshman year I was taking Calculus. To get through the dreaded homework I used to listen to only rap! I loved it because it got me pumped and motivated to finish my homework. The only problem was yes, I was completing it, but I didnt even know what I was doing. I ended up rapping to it, then would get back to my work.
    I am going to segway this because I see these types of things as not even distractions but us students multitasking. 2 or more things are going on at the same time, and us trying to focus on more than 1 thing can lead to us not doing so well in both things.
    In this video about Productivity, they mention how multitasking makes us seem like we are accomplishing more, but we are actually not as productive as we think we are. I think this would come more into play if you werent listening to music and trying to communicate with your friends while doing the test. But luckily you didnt! It is actually quite interesting how you did good with the music playing. Hey next best option right!?
    So more on that, I agree with you in it being Chance.
    I also feel like there could be a 3rd variable at hand! I have 2 ideas. I think one of the 3rd variables is maybe youy payed attention really well in class, and killed it on the test!
    Or maybe you studied really well for this test (compared to the last one) and aced it that way!

  4. Rachel Lauren Satell

    I found this blog entry really interesting. I have often heard that listening to music while studying for an exam or taking said exam is a bad idea as it can be distracting. In my own personal experience I find music to be hugely beneficial. I have a hard time concentrating for long periods of time but I have found that if I introduce controlled stimuli, such as music, to my environment while I study I have the best results. I select music that is of the same tempo and volume, whose lyrics I know so well I do not have to think about them. I find that this calms my anxiety and allows me to focus for longer periods of time. When i started looking into whether or not there was scientific support for my anecdotal evidence I found that studies were often conflicting. While some saw music as a way to enhance performance others found that it impaired student’s learning.

  5. Anthony Michael Calligaro

    I hope you are right because I hate studying with music. I either play music I like and find myself singing along to it, or I play more calming background music, which I just don’t really enjoy to listen to. From my past experiences, I have found that silence is the best working environment, but sometimes, complete silence can be distracting. Being able to hear a pin drop in the room has caused me in previous years to be distracted during numerous tests and quizzes. However, according to Professor Glenn Schellenberg from the psychology department of the University of Toronto (link below), music can help people study, but it must be chosen carefully. Music that causes you to multitask by doing work and singing along to the songs is obviously detrimental to productivity. Yet, music that settles in the back of your mind, blocking out your surrounding distractions, can improve the way people study.

  6. John Carney

    This was a great blog Molly! I agree that this may be do to cofounding variables or chance because if you normally cant focus while listening to music, it usually wouldn’t just help you to improve your grades randomly. Music is a huge distraction when I’m attempting to get work done but some people are used to listening to music while they study and actually do better with it. If your not that kind of person, then it usually doesn’t just click like that. I believe that you may have just studied and knew the course outline a little better this time around and were more careful when selecting your answers. Music affects the human body in different ways depending on the genre of choice and the type of person you are. Here is an article on how music affects the human body:
    Overall, very interesting and relevant.

  7. Chelsea Greenberg

    I find this topic really interesting! For me personally, I need silence when testing or doing comprehensive readings. However, I find listening to music while doing math problems actually helps me for some reason! I wonder if there is a correlation there, or if I’m just weird in that way. You did a good job at connecting your blog to class material by incorporating concepts such as confounding variables and chance. However, maybe you could have incorporated terminology for hypothesis testing, such as null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis. Overall, I enjoyed your blog, and here is a summary of study done that shows that being trained in music is correlated with being better at math, so maybe I’m not so crazy!

  8. Rebecca M Link

    This was extremely interesting to me. As someone who listens to music a lot during my school work and always has these study results were interesting to look at. Thinking about applying this in my own life and seeing how my grades change (or if they even do).

  9. Abigail Roe

    I agree that listening to music while trying to accomplish school work is very distracting and not beneficial. I have tried to do homework while listening to music, and it just does not work. You did a good job at explaining the studies and stating the facts. Your anecdote in the beginning made me laugh. I can picture all of that bustle going on in your dorm room. It reminded me of a scene out of Cheaper by the Dozen. However, to make your blog even better, you could have expanded on your confounding variable assumption. You said “perhaps the reason I did better on Class Test 2 was because of confounding variables…”. What confounding variables are you talking about that could have enhanced your test performance? Just a suggestion to add to clarify your thoughts. I also wonder if they type of music you listen to effects your performance. Is there a difference between listening to rap and classical music? I did some more research on this question of mine, and it turns out listening to classical music benefits your brain while studying. Here is an article with more information on that topic.

Leave a Reply