Is listening to music while studying detrimental?

If you have ever walked in to a college library, it is unlikely that you will see a student without headphones on. Many students opt to listen to music while they are doing schoolwork, or studying. I personally do this myself, as I never have worked well in dead silence. Noting that such an abundance of my peers do the same, I wondered if listening to music while studying actually promotes our performance in school, or if it just served as a distraction.

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To research this question, I have focused on a study conducted at the University of Wales. Participants were given a simple recall test, and were to repeat the test in five different environments. The first environment was a quiet one. The second was one in which a numerical number was consistently repeated over, and over. This was regarded as the “steady” environment. The third environment was similar to the second, but instead of one number being steadily repeated, a variety of numbers were repeated instead. In the fourth environment, participants listened to music they liked, and in the fifth they listened to music that they disliked. 

Personally, I was very surprised by the results of this experiments. I thought that those listening to the music they liked would preform the best, and the opposite was found. Performances were similar in environments four, and five. They proved to be extremely higher in environments one, and two which were the silent, and “consistent”.

Another article further explains what may have caused these results. Listening to music while studying, may stimulate other regions of one’s brain. This may cause “interference” between parts of the brain that are trying to retain the information one is studying. This occurrence is more likely to happen while studying subjects that involve reading, and writing. This multi-tasking often leads to be detrimental to one’s study attempts.

After looking over these results, I feel as though I will not be changing my study habits anytime soon. I personally have not noticed that music greatly effects the quality of my work, but instead motivates me to get it done. I think it is a personal preference to listen to music while studying, and I think it is a choice many college students will continue to favor.




3 thoughts on “Is listening to music while studying detrimental?

  1. sbm5465

    Personally, I’ve always listened to music when I’m working to help motivate me to get through it. If I play music that I like, it seems to make the experience a little less tedious for me. Although I like listening to music because it motivates me to get my work done, I would be honest by saying that it also distracts me at the same time. As much as we think we are capable of multitasking, we actually aren’t. This article : explains that we actually just switch our attention from one task to another at a faster rate. Like you said, I’ll still be listening to my music, but just some food for thought.

  2. Meredith Herndon

    Hi Darby! This post caught my eye because I have always worked while listening to music and I was so surprised that it actually could be hurting my learning. From my own experience, whenever I need to focus I intentionally put on slow, soothing music that doesn’t have lyrics to distract me. After reading this post and the studies results, I wonder if its not music that is the issue but if its the type of music. I looked into it more but the only studies I found had similar results to yours, but still I think it’d be interesting to see how different types affected it. Meditational music seems to help people concentrate in yoga, so why not during studying? Personally, I could never get work done if I was listening to country or rap music, but I also feel that I couldn’t with silence either. As you said, I think personal preference is most important in cases such as this.

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