Is it Time to Ditch the Music While Studying?

Many students in the library, HCC, and around campus can be found with headphones in while they study, but this music might not be helping these students study as effectively as they could. Chapter 4 of the textbook goes into how this is related to the irrelevant speech effect and how any speech can disrupt the encoding of information. After reading this I went to find out more, worried that I would have to start studying in silence all the time. In the article “Does Listening to music while studying make you a better student?”(Segren,2019) it discussed how listening to music that is calm and has no lyrics is better than listening to lyrical music. It’s better to ditch listening to music though according to the textbook as well as this article The reason for this is because memory recall is better when information is encoded in a similar environment to the one a student will be in when they need to recall the information, which is usually a silent classroom. Therefore here at UMW, I think the best places to study would be like the silent floor in the library, or an empty classroom, without headphones in. The next article I looked at called “ The Impact of Music in Memory” was a study that also had significant findings that not listening to music was the best way to study. Unlike the first article, this study did not find that listening to calm music had an effect on the participant’s cognitive ability compared to the group who studied in silence. This article found that type of music had more of an effect on peoples abilities in activities such as sports, but not IQ 

For those who still want to listen to music while studying and can’t fathom not listening to music, there is still hope according to the Segren article. There are some benefits to listening to music. If a student feels they need music/music with lyrics to study, it is beneficial for the student to listen to the same songs every time that they study. This is because the brain will learn that the music is unimportant and almost tune it out while the student studies because the music has become generalized. 

 According to the Segren article as well as the “should you listen to music while studying” (US Today, 2019), studies found when people are in a good mood, they tend to be more productive and better problem solvers. Therefore, if music helps a student get in the mood to study and feel happy it can help them study more effectively. The dopamine release from the music can help a student continue to feel energized and engaged in studying especially for longer study sessions. As mentioned above not all music is the same when it comes to studying. It’s best to stay away from angry music because it can increase cortisol levels and stress which will lead to worse performance in cognition. Unless angry music makes the student happy. For students looking for music to listen to while studying, I would recommend the music from animal crossing, Lindsay sterling, or listening to music scores from movies or plays. The mood boost that music gives a student could possibly be used to help a student prepared to get in the right mindset to take a test. People are more likely to remember information when they are in the same mood that they were in when they encoded it. This is known as memory bias. Therefore, a student could make a studying playlist that puts them in a good, positive and productive mood that they listen to while studying. They could then before going take the test they studied for listening to that playlist to get into the same mindset they were in when they studied it. Listening to music while studying can be good or bad it really depends on the person, what type of music, and how the student can use listening to music to their advantage  




6 thoughts on “Is it Time to Ditch the Music While Studying?

  1. maggierush

    I definitely am one of those people who loves music when I’m studying. I’m most productive when I’m at work… that sounds so weird but normally during the week there are no people coming in and its really quiet and we always have classical music quietly playing in the lobby. I think for me the balance of like some noise but not distracting noise works really well for me. I am someone who has ADHD though and weirdly enough there are some studies that show that people with ADHD have better memory recall in rooms with a moderate level of white noise. I can imagine when the music is really loud or the words are way too catchy is when people start to run into issues with listening to music while studying.

  2. wharris2

    I have always wondered whether the music that I listen to is having a positive or negative impact on my ability to recall the information later. it seems based on the article provided and the blog post that my alternative music isn’t the best choice. Now, based on reading your blog post I am curious if their is a difference for an individuals ability to recall information between listening to lyrical and non-lyrical music that the person is familiar with. In my opinion, since the individual is familiar with both types of songs it should not make to much of a difference on whether the music has lyrics or not. Hopefully a new study comes out soon to provide an answer to this.

  3. chieber

    I experienced something related to this today. The night before, I met up to hang out with friends while studying with a girl from my class for our test today. There was a movie we saw right before called “A million ways to die in the west” and in that movie there is a whacky dance scene and they sing about mustaches. At the time I thought nothing of it, the next morning I went about my day like normal, and the second I sit down to take my test, guess what song plays in my head for the next hour.

  4. kaygoss

    I am definitely the kind of person that need noise but not necessarily music. I often find it distracting listening to music that I know, but I do like to have the TV on something that I don’t need to pay attention to. If the room is too quiet I feel like I can hear my thoughts. I could probably benefit from a white noise machine.

  5. victoriarulapaugh

    When I am studying, the only music I can listen to is classical music. I know that sound odd, but there is something about it that relaxes me and it helps me focus. Maybe that will be my next blog post? While I do find music to be fun and excluding of others (with headphones in) it is also a HUGE distraction.

  6. carmennichols

    Your post is very interesting because I love music, but a lot of times I have difficultly paying attention when I study. Usually I turn the volume down low and listen to calm songs, since they put me in a better mood. It definitely makes sense how we can focus better and do tasks better when we’re in a happy state versus an angry one. Personally, listening to music prior to studying helps me a lot. I can see how it can be helpful for some people and how it can be difficult for others. It’s kind of like the chewing gum scenario while studying. It’s supposed to help you while you study because your brain gets in tune with the chewing motion and the flavor. But when it comes time for the test, it’s like you have to chew that same gum because it’s what your brain has associated with the material. It’s basically the same with music, only you typically can’t listen to music while you take a test. Regardless, I think it’s a great way to study if it helps you better understand the material. Thanks for sharing!

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