I usually like to study alone, but if I’m ever over with a friend having a study session or just mutual homework time, a common question I get is often, “Hey, do you mind if I put on some music? I work better with it on.” In high school I used to religiously put on music when I did homework, but as I’ve gotten older I stopped. I kept finding it harder and harder to concentrate, and thinking back on it now, in the times that I had my music on while trying to do homework, I was very slow and pretty unproductive. This brings me to my question: is listening to music while doing homework harmful or helpful?
The first article cites two studies (both of which I have not found away around having to pay for to access: 1 & 2). The gist of the first study cited is that people were asked to remember information in a specific order after either being in a quiet environment, listening to someone say “three” repeatedly, listening to random numbers being said, listening to music they reportedly liked, or listening music that they reportedly did not like. The findings were that those who were in the quiet environment or with the person saying “three” over and over scored higher than the other three groups, which were not significantly different from each other. However, the other study that was cited, though getting similar results showing that those who listened to music scored lower than those who did not, also concluded that individual differences must account for a large variation in scores in general. Some of these differences may include if the participants were used to listening to music while studying or not.
Interestingly, this study talks about how music can influence mood, therefore influencing productivity. It states that what a person feels towards a musical piece depends on their past experiences with that specific piece. This was all being studied in the context of software development company, which reportedly is very stressful in nearly all stages of development. The interest in music comes from thinking that lower stress means higher productivity (which may be an entirely wrong assumption but might not be either, I haven’t done the research to know *cough,cough* someone should maybe find out and comment? *cough*). The researchers found that when music was taken out of a person’s daily work habits the person was likely to go through what may have been considered music withdraw, therefore they experienced more stress and less productivity. In the case where music was integrated into a work environment where people were not used to listening to music, results were not positive in the beginning, but after a few weeks people showed a more positive emotion than on the first week. The overall conclusion was that to keep people as stress-free and as productive as possible (when considering music during work) people should be able to choose to listen or to not listen, and also pick their own duration of listening to music.
Even after all that, I still have some unanswered questions. What would the difference be in listening to different cultural music than what you may be used to? Say, for instance if I listened to Indian music? Or, which I’m sure has already be addressed in some study out there, what is the difference in listening to music with lyrics vs. no lyrics? Or even the difference between music that you like but do not know the lyrics, vs. music that you like and you do know the lyrics? I often would find myself singing along and not paying attention to my work when I used to listen to music while trying to study. There is so much music in the world that I feel you would have to read an obscene amount of literature to understand how each one effected you, not even including one’s own feelings and experiences with certain types of music.
One of the things that inspired me to write about music is that, on occasion, either while going about my daily life or while doing homework assignments such as this one, certain songs will get stuck in my head and they often feel very relatable to my current situation. Is this a form of listening to music while working? Or is it something that your brain uses to help you remember things? I’ve heard from teachers that you should try and take tests in the same exact spot that you sit in in class. Or that you should chew the same flavored gum while you study as when you take a test, that supposedly these things will help you hold onto memories that are associated with your gum chewing or seat position as long as they stay constant. Could music be the same way? Though I’m sure it’s not permitted, if I listened to, for example, Jason Mraz’s “Remedy” (the song that happens to be stuck in my head right now), while reading my textbook, would I better remember what was written there on the test day if I listened to the same song while taking the test?
In addition to such questions, which as it turns out just leads to many more questions, do the songs that get stuck in our heads have meanings? In trying to understand why this “Remedy” song (which I dislike greatly and have not listened to since middle school) is stuck in my head, I’m thinking that these lyrics maybe have something to do with what’s going on in this blog post?
This is about to get really outlandish so bear with me… There is a section of the song that goes, “the remedy is the experience/ this is a dangerous liaison.” The definition of liaison being: “communication or cooperation that facilitates a close working relationship between people or organizations” (Google). Is that not relevant to what I’m writing about in an abstract way? If the remedy (music) is experience, which is what this whole article is about, how we experience music in different situations, then perhaps dangerous is a bit of a stretch, but it may be a cooperation of mental faculties to facilitate music and our brains working closely together to help us understand information in certain situations?
Perhaps that’s a load of nonsense.
Do you ever get songs stuck in your head that pertain to your life’s situation? Tell me what you think.