Many students from different parts of the world, all studying something different tend to do their homework and general revision while listening to music. It’s a habit that many students use to get in the zone while studying, and for many, they will swear that listening to their favourite songs makes them study better and recollect more information easier. But does music help or hinder learning? And does it matter what type of music you listen to while revising?
According to researchers from the applied psychology department of Cardiff Metropolitan University, a brand new study was conducted to finally answer the question. The authors of the study, Nick Perham and Harriet Currie, conducted the study by assigning students into one of four groups: the first revised in silence, the second revised while listening to music with lyrics they liked (which included popular mainstream songs from One Direction and Katy Perry), the third group revised to music with lyrics they did not like, which comprised of very heavy metal bands in which they had previously expressed was not their taste of music, and the fourth group revised listening to music without lyrics altogether.
The participants then wrote down their predictions for how they would recollect information, and then proceeded to take a test on the passages they had been revising, rating how distracting their environment had been. The results clearly showed that students who revised in quiet environments performed more than 60% better in an exam than their peers who revised while listening to music that had lyrics. Additionally, students who revised while listening to music without lyrics did better than those who had revised to music with lyrics, and it ultimately made no difference if students revised listening to songs they liked or disliked. According to the results, both led to a reduction in their test performance, and students who revised in silence rated their environment as less distracting and accurately predicted that this would lead to better performances in subsequent tests.
While there are generally some benefits to listening to music while performing certain tasks while studying or revising, it was mostly notable as motivation and mood improvements, rather than how much information was stored efficiently. So while an individual may seem happier while studying, it does not necessarily improve the way they may study.
However, further research has also revealed that while listening to music while trying to learn something new won’t help them study – listening to music before studying can boost an individuals mood and make them more happy and open to receiving new information. So why does it not help during the task itself? Researchers have pinned this to the “Mozart Effect” and how music with lyrics can take up processing space in your brain, which in-turn conflicts with the material that is trying to be learnt.
So, should you listen to music while you are studying? Well, the answer seemingly boils down to a simple: It depends! According to the results, there are pros and cons to each. While features of the task particularly while studying complex material would require you to engage all your focus on what you are trying to understand, listening to music may not be the best idea. However, your personality seems also to play a role on whether you will benefit at all from listening to your favourite tunes while studying and only to complicate things even further, we have seen that an interaction of both factors, task complexity and personality, may be in place. Nevertheless, positive effects of background music have been found and it may certainly be worth trying it out.