Hi, I’m Aroona, a University of Hertfordshire Humanities graduate who is currently on a short work placement in the University’s Marketing and Communications department. Music can either be a aid or a distraction when studying so today I wanted to explore the research behind why that is the case.
For students it is often the case that listening to our favourite songs whilst buckling down to do some work is a relationship that works together rather than in opposition. If you head to the LRC, there are plenty of students with headphones plugged in to their ears focusing on the screen in front of them as to simulate a solitary study zone that is loud as it is quiet. Music is a powerful influencer and it means that when trying to write an assignment or cram in some revision, our minds tend to wander elsewhere. Music works to occupy and fulfil our craving senses, so our minds can concentrate on our studying. It seems like the ideal partnership but is often debated how effective it is when it comes to learning as truly what are you more focused on: Encyclopedia or Eminem?
Music is of daily importance in most peoples’ lives and the impact it has on us when we study is often taken for granted or not explored enough. Music is depicted as a reflection of our personality but the same can be said of our approach to learning. The idea that listening to classical music, known as the ‘Mozart effect’, makes us smarter has endured for quite some time but how much difference would be listening to this genre make to our exam results over listening to rock or rap music instead?
The reality is more complex and personal. Research has shown that the number of brain areas activated when listening to music depends on the individual’s personal experience with music and the situation they are in.
Classical music is shown to improve a person’s visual perception, as vision is our most domineering sense, it means that our brain can process a lot more information seeing a picture than just hearing it being described.
For tasks that require you to exercise concentration and memory, research suggests listening to music without lyrics is far less distracting than listen to music with lyrics. However, for increasingly mundane and repetitive tasks, music with lyrics are seen to be effective in providing relief as music increases levels of dopamine in the brain, a chemical that enforces feelings of relaxation and pleasure.
Studies suggest that listening to ambient or natural music can help boost creativity. The calming, moderate sounds of listening to a river flowing are shown to improve a person’s mood and increase productivity as we come up with more creative approaches when applying our minds to new or difficult information.
Finding out the right type of music to suit you when studying can be difficult especially when trying to flick through your playlist and complete you essay late in to the night. However, picking tunes to help increase your levels of concentration are also shown to reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue.
If you’re looking for a playlist to ease you in to your study routine: why not listen to these recommendations.
The University also regularly hosts events featuring live music - perfect for relaxing after lectures or even as a study break!