Students search constantly for new ways to improve study habits and test scores, and while studying with music has become a popular trend and is found to be beneficial to some students, studies continue to explore its overall effectiveness.
Doing homework with Taylor Swift music can be a party, but the problem stems with students’ abilities to focus and stay on task. Studies from the University of Phoenix show there are benefits from listening to music while studying, but the type of music is the deciding factor.
“The impact of listening to music on cognitive performance,” an article from Student Pulse, suggests that the specific type of music is what makes or breaks the overall idea of studying with music. Studies shown in the article tested music’s impact on performance, anxiety and concentration while doing certain “cognitive tasks.” Results showed that students performed better when listening to “sedative music” rather than “stimulative music.” This study demonstrated that “stimulative music” distracted students with “lyrics, emotions and memories,” and the “sedative music” demanded less attention, as it is mainly instrumental.
BYU students are often seen accessorizing with a variety of headphone brands and types all across campus. Flashy, noise-cancelling Beats and Apple earbuds are a few indications that music is a major part of the college lifestyle.
Chemical engineering major and a sophomore at BYU, Spencer Barrett, said listening to music while he studies helps him.
“Sometimes the lyrics distract me, but I have to have a solid beat I can listen to,” he said.
Although Barrett agreed that music can help him focus, he realized that he could not listen to just any music. He also mentioned that the volume of the music affected his studying in different ways. The louder the music, the harder it was for him to focus on his daily tasks.
Mackenzie Brown, a public relations major and a senior at BYU, said certain music can be helpful depending on what she is doing.
“I really like listening to symphonic music if I am writing a paper. However, if I’m doing something more design-oriented, like formatting an assignment, I like to put on peppy music,” she said.
Brown also mentioned that she works well with background music as long as “it’s not too distracting.”
According to an article in USA Today, music can aid in bettering cognitive performance. The article explained a study that was conducted on students listening to background music while taking tests. The study concluded that the students who did listen to music during their tests took the test at a faster pace and answered more questions correctly. Although the study claims that test scores were better with background music, the effect of music varies with each student. The study also mentions that the type of music was a key factor in the test results.
Another study conducted by the University of Dayton found that students had better “spatial and linguistic processing” when Mozart was the background music.
Hokulea Conklin is a professor of effective study and learning at BYU and understands that music can be helpful but questions the true effectiveness of listening to music while studying.
“Listening to music while studying tends to interfere with effectiveness and productivity. However, listening to music can also be soothing and relaxing, which helps to reduce stress and hormones and promote memory and attention,” Conklin said. “If students find they attend to verbal cues and can become easily distracted by those, then this will likely interfere with the quality and effectiveness of their studying.”
Conklin mentioned that when conducting a study on the effectiveness of listening to music while taking tests and studying, factors such as “distractibility” and the “type of task a person is performing” can greatly influence whether or not music is beneficial to cognitive tasks.
Listen to The Universe’s study playlist below, and add your favorite study songs to the playlist on Spotify.