Our study method preferences can vary significantly from one person to another. Some people favor studying alone in a quiet space, while others enjoy learning with their peers while listening to other people chattering, or letting any other “background noise” create a setting that works for them.
When it comes to listening to music while studying, opinions are divided, too. Some students enjoy music and gladly incorporate their favorite tunes into their study routine. Others, on the other hand, avoid this practice, claiming that music distracts them rather than helps them concentrate.
But how much do we really know about the correlation between music and studying? Are there reasons to believe that it can help you study faster, retain information longer, or even affect your intelligence? Here’s what the scientists have to say.
The Mozart Effect
The effects of classical music on human intelligence are being actively debated ever since 1991, when the book Pourquoi Mozart? initially sparked the interest in this matter. A group of authors then published their study findings in Nature magazine in 1993, concluding that listening to Mozart’s music caused temporary enhancement of spatial reasoning in the study examinees.
This research led to the birth of the so-called Mozart Effect, a controversial hypothesis that is commonly simplified into: “Listening to classical music makes you smarter.” It’s believed that a process supposedly works best when the exposure to classical music begins at early childhood.
Although Rauscher et al. reported a proven increase in spatial, not general, intelligence and claimed that such effect of music on examinees lasts no more than the 15 minutes, the results they shared were soon getting widely misinterpreted. The formed misconception that Mozart’s music leads to a permanent general IQ increase spread quickly, although many other scientists claimed that more research is required “before the effect can be fully assessed.”
How does music affect our brains?
Author and mother of two Susan Morris took a particular interest in the Mozart Effect. She emphasizes that no research that’s yet been done on the matter undoubtedly points to a direct, strong correlation between music and intelligence boost.
Even the predictions scientists had about the effect of music and background noise on studying capacities of introverts and extroverts turned out inaccurate. Their predictions concerning whether it’s better to study in a quiet space or with music in the background also led in the direction opposite of what was expected.
All that being said, although the full extent of influence music can have on our brains is still somewhat inaccurate, many studies have shown that this influence undoubtedly exists. However, is it safe to draw any conclusions from these findings, concerning the question many people want answered: Can listening to music help while you study?
Should you study with music in the background?
Although it’s quite safe to say that mere listening to music won’t make you smarter, music can have several positive effects on your brain. Some of these effects can even indirectly lead to better performance and help you study.
Music is proven to trigger the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, commonly referred to as the “happy hormone”. Additionally, studies have also shown that music can lower cortisol levels, suppressing the feelings of anxiety and stress. Studying in an environment and a state of mind that is peaceful and stress-free, expectedly, leads to a better studying experience that proves to be more efficient.
It’s important to know that the type of music you listen to is important as well, and the type of schoolwork is a factor to be considered. Listening to a lecture or reading a handout can “clash” with music with prominent lyrics, but the same music can represent no problem for art students, for example.
Music is undoubtedly an important part of most people’s lives, whichever genre they may prefer. Although researchers claim to have found no indisputable evidence that listening to music while studying helps everyone study more efficiently, a correlation that leads to positive outcomes definitely exists. Music can help you relax and enter a zone of mental comfort, which will surely help in your academic efforts.
Listening to music while studying isn’t a must for every student, though. It’s important to listen to the specific needs of your own body and mind. Some people simply need silence in order to perform best. If you happen to be one of these people, there’s no reason to deny yourself what your mind seems to benefit from the most.