As midterms rapidly approach, it seems everyone has succumbed to a state of panic and stress, myself included. This week I had two midterm exams in classes for my major, and I found myself staying up extraordinarily late almost every single night trying to cram useless information into my tired head. Like most college students, I often found myself procrastinating and surfing the web. Suddenly, I came across a soundtrack to a movie I once loved as a kid (and still do) called Spirited Away. I listened to the soundtrack, and was enthralled by the harmonious melodies composed by the brilliant Joe Hisaishi. You can listen to my favorite piece by him here, (also from the movie Spirited Away). As if like magic, I suddenly found myself concentrating even harder than before, and focusing and comprehending what I was actually doing. I wondered, does classical music have an affect on study habits?
According to USC News, it can. The article mentions several experiments on the topic that were conducted recently, that say classical music has a direct influence on a number of things. In addition to improving focus and attention, classical music can also have benefits on things such as how you sleep at night, your immunity to diseases and as a stress reducer. At a university in France, researches came to the conclusion that students who listened to classical music while attending a lecture did better on a follow-up quiz than students who did not listen to classical music during the lecture. The researches added that the classical music put students in a different state of mind, helping them focus better on the lecture material.
As I researched this topic more, I came across a name that researchers gave to this exact topic of study. Appropriately titled “The Mozart Effect,” this article from howtolearn.com goes more in depth of the basis for it, and the studies that were involved to reach the conclusion. The article describes how music, specifically of the classical variant, can make you smarter. It lists various benefits of the Mozart Effect, including improvements in test scores, developments in creativity and changes in how the brain gathers information in a more productive way.
The article describes how a scientist named Dr. Georgi Lozanov used baroque music to teach foreign languages in a more efficient way, in that information would be better retained. The study points out that listening to baroque music while learning a foreign language could be completely comprehended in a span of 30 days at a rate of 85%-100% effectiveness, as opposed to how long it usually takes to completely learn a foreign language— two years. The article makes one final important point, noting the correlation between a relaxed body and classical music. When you hear the tempo of a classical piece, and the steady rhythm of the beat, your heart reacts and matches the pulse to the beat of the music, calming you. As your heart rate matches the beat of the music, it relaxes you immensely, therefore allowing you to concentrate better.
I think all of the studies that were performed are very interesting, and I would like to read more about each individual study conducted to learn about the specificities of it. For example, were the studies mostly a randomized control test? Or was there some element of blind/double-blind too? From the articles I read, none of them mention any confounding variables either, so I’m wondering if a third variable could also play a role in determining if classical music does help with studying or not. I pondered a few confounding variables myself, and think the environment, studying habits and level of education could also affect how a person studies.
Inquiresjournal.com points out in an article that while most research done on this topic has resulted in the conclusion that classical music improves study habits, there have been many cases in which the participants of the experiment had an opposite effect on them, and they performed worse in an exam. This article also does mention confounding variables, for example how things like the volume or genre of the music could also affect how one studies.
The next time you have to study for a big exam, listen to some Mozart. You never know, it could end up helping you.