Studying While Listening to Music: Good or Bad?

Spotify is all us college students listen to these days. We listen to it when we are bored, when we are hanging out with our friends, when we are walking to class, and when we study. There are so many pre-made Spotify playlists that are made for people to listen to while they are studying, such as these: *Insert pics*. I listen to music whenever i am studying for an exam because I feel like it keeps me focused and doesn’t get me stressed. But now I wonder, is studying with music on really beneficial? Or is it hurting my studying?



In 2012, the University of Wales conducted a study to test this question . They did this by giving students a list of items to remember in a certain order, while playing different music in the background for each student, and some with no background sound at all. There were five different scenarios given. The scenario was given with no background music, complete silence. In the next scenario, a person repeated the word “three” over and over throughout the task. Another scenario, people were repeating a bunch of short words repetitively during the task. Another background noise was with a song that the students enjoyed (they got to choose the song), while the next scenario was with music that they didn’t like.

Although these results did not find much of a difference between the test scores of the students that listened to enjoyable and not enjoyable music, there were some interesting results. They realized that just having any music on in the background, resulted in a lower test score. They said that any type of music is just as bad as any background noise, such as talking or conversation. They believe that any music is a distraction to studying and will not benefit the student in any way.

Here it describes two more studies that were done. The first study was done at the University of Maryland in 2013 to test the same question. They went about this task by having 32 students take a math quiz, but with different background sounds. They did not just test no music v. music, they also tested with songs of low and high intensity. Their results were similar to the results at the University of Wales. They found that any background music was a distraction to the working student. The grades of the students with no background music playing, scored the highest.

In contrast to these first two studies I have mentioned above, this next study in France begged to differ with their results. This was a much larger test group that consisted of 249 students. This study had their participants watch a lecture, some while listening to music in the background, some with none. These results happened to find that the group of people who had music playing achieved a higher score than those who observed the lecture with no background sound.

This website made some general conclusions from these two studies (University of Maryland study and the France study). They saw that fast paced music or songs with a lot of lyrics were distracting to those trying to read or do anything that involved learning something new. They also concluded that it keeps the student motivated and lessens their anxiety.

There are mixed results from all of these studies, but it also all depends on the  constant variable which is each individuals normal ability to focus and study. There is no 100% clear answer here, so we can never know for sure; it could be a personal preference. These studies did not specifically choose their participants, it was chance/ random.



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6 thoughts on “Studying While Listening to Music: Good or Bad?

  1. Bernarda Jarrin Alvear

    I found this article interesting since I was going to talk about how music may affect cognitive abilities in babies. I agree with you because the results from the studies can be due by chance but I believe it also has to do with personal preferences. I have a friend who made an experiment on his science class and could prove through alpha and beta waves that his level of relaxation increased when listening to classical music. Also there are studies that talk about the Mozzart Effect, this is how Mozart’s sonatas have made an impact on the cognitive skills of people. It has even helped people who have epilepsy, here is a study that talks about it. The effects that music can have on people have a great extent and are vey intriguing. Your post was great!

  2. Ryan Eric Freeman

    I cannot listen to any type of music when i study or do homework. i feel as if i am being extremely detracted and i can not concentrate on my actual work. For some strange reason I do try to listen to music while i do work but it always ends in me turning it off. In this debate i would think listening to music while study is more of a distraction then a learning tool. Here is an article that show why you shouldn’t listen to music while studying.

  3. Brett Alan Merritt

    I am constantly listening to music. I listen to it when walking from class to class and also when studying. I always wondered if the noise was hurting me or helping me. After reading this post, I will probably try to study without music and see if my test scores increase. I feel as if the data in this post is enough to make me test it for myself.

  4. Arunima Sthapak

    I too tend to listen to a lot of music while doing any and all kinds of activities. I remember having one conversation with my mom in which she told me that she too used to listen to music while studying. She said she played it to block out the noise coming from the streets and construction noises around her house. She said that the music helped her get her initial focus, and after a while she tuned it out too.

    I also wonder whether there is a difference in the level of concentration with the different types of music. Is it possible that music with words and lyrics distract us more than ones with just sounds.

  5. Jason Schwartz

    I actually made a similar post earlier about how music can affect someones mood. Personally I listen to music when I study because I find it relaxing and it has the ability to drowned out the excess noise. With the calming sounds I believe it allows me to get into deep thought and retain the information. Do you think different tones can affect what we retain? Here is what I listen to.

  6. dff5115

    I think that studying with music on is a personal opinion and it effects each person differently. For me when i am writing i don’t like to listen to music with a lot of lyrics because i feel it confuses my thoughts; this is like the study said. When doing math homework or other homework that involves number i find that music helps me concentrate and has a positive effect on my work

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