I’m sure you’ve heard the idea that listening to music whilst you’re studying will make you more distracted, retain less and in general make your revision less effective. That’s not necessarily true though. Many people cannot study without music but others need pin-drop silence to study. Music can boost your mood, motivation and memory – but not for everyone.
In general, the right type of music can be a great tool to increase your productivity while studying.
Anyone who’s listened to their favorite song knows just how much hearing it can make you excited but there’s some scientifically backed-up benefits to this too. Listening to music stimulates multiple reward centers in the brain. In a 2019 study, scientists realized that participants would make choices that allowed them to activate the reward center in the brain. By using music as a reward, we can be motivated to do things that we may enjoy less – like revision. This could mean blasting some of your favorite songs one you finish a task you hate or listening to music you enjoy when doing something boring. In another study, it was concluded the music helps concentration, alleviates boredom and helps relaxation – but these effects were mainly reported with tasks that didn’t require a high cognitive ability.
Beyond just giving you motivation, music can really help your memory. Music activates both sides of your brain which in turn improves your memory drastically. Music engages the predictive and attention areas in the brain, activating these areas are key to aiding memory and how the brain organizes information. Furthermore, if you listen to a particular type of song or genre of music when you study it aids your memory recall. The information is then linked to the emotional response that the music creates which helps recall later. Music is even a great tool for remembering key pieces of information. Certain important pieces of information are set to music because the pattern of the music makes the information easier to remember.
Music also improves your mood – which allows you to work to the best of your ability. Music reduces stress as it decreases blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels. It’s a great way to process emotions and strengthen your emotional resolve. Furthermore, no matter the type of music, it had a positive effect on people with depression. Music enhances dopamine and depressive symptoms are exasperated by a lack of dopamine and serotonin, soso, listening to music can improve depressive symptoms, especially if you’re listening to your favorite tracks.
Music can inspire enthusiasm and drive, but it is important to choose your music so that it’s appropriate for the type of task at hand. Music is a helpful motivator when doing tasks that require less memory capacity but music can be an impediment when reading as reading and listening to music utilize the same part of the brain. Some people with better memory capacity, however, are able to simultaneously listen to music and read as they are less affected. It has also been found that listening to instrumental music is far more effective for studying than listening to music with lyrics. This seems to be because music with lyrics requires more memory capacity which can diminish the attention, we are giving to other learning tasks.
Furthermore, it’s not just instrumental music that is useful when studying, listening to highly repetitive music with narrow tonal range allows people to do better than in situations with complex music or no music.
Music has a number of impressive benefits when you’re studying – especially the right type of music. It can be a motivator, a memory aid and a mood booster.