Walking through the uni library, its common to see people knee-deep in text books with their headphones on (sometimes crying, other times just looking panicked). But is listening to music even any good for us when studying?
In short? Yes but no.
If you listen to music with lyrics, you study session will not be as worthwhile 😦 .
This is because lyrics are language based, just like the words you are studying. When your ears are hearing song lyrics, it is difficult for your eyes to interpret your study notes. Technically, studies state that it is the changing state speech that makes it difficult for you to interpret and retain anything you have learned.
BUT. The good news is that mathematic study is as negatively affected by lyrical music compared to other subjects. This is because mathematics doesn’t require as much language processing, therefore you attention is not split.
Everybody is different
Some other studies suggest music combined with personal differences can affect your study effectiveness.
An anxious or neurotic person may require more soothing or chill music. A relaxed for laid-back person will require more upbeat tunes to help maintain focus.Also, interestingly introverted people have been reported to prefer solitude and silence for studying. This is compared to extroverts who need more external stimuli to maintain attention.
This almost goes without saying, but if you enjoy a song you will probably make more positive attributions to your study experience; but this does not necessarily impact upon memory.
This study reported that you still need to enjoy the type of non-lyrical music you are listening to for it to be better than silence. These researches reported that when you listen to a song that you do not like, functional connectivity (i.e. brain function) in the brain regions that store memories are decreased.
Other studies report that if a song is strongly associated with memories (good or bad), these memories can distract you from study.
So what type of music should I listen to?
Well, studies are consistent in saying that purely instrumental music aids study.
More specifically, classical music has been found to be good when played BEFORE and used THROUGHOUT study as it improves attention span. This is because your brain begins to predict and anticipate the music (using another part of the brain, luckily) making it easier to maintain focus on study.
Music helps focus attention. It takes about 20 minutes to focus, which decreases when listening to music.
Other studies have also reported that white noise is good for studying. This is because after a while it becomes akin to silence. This can be the rumble of traffic, wind, rain, rainforest sounds, or anything repetitive and/or natural.
So in summary….
Complete silence best for concentration and memory retention but if you need to listen to music, go for non-lyrical, classical, or white noise/nature sounds