Studying with music: helpful or not?

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Studying with music: helpful or not?
Music can help us focus with our studying. (Kate Miller/The Seattle Times/MCT)

By SAN AGARWAL
Staff Writer

If you ever walk into a school library, you will immediately notice numerous people with headphones in and study material out.  Some people claim music helps you focus on what you are doing, and eliminates possible sounds and disturbances from distracting you, while others believe music actually distracts you from your work.

Defending music as a study tool, Rodrigo San Roman (Jr.) said, “Whenever I am studying, I like listening to Beethoven and Mozart, it really helps me focus my ideas, and besides who doesn’t appreciate classical music.” In addition John Wahidy (Jr.) said, “I find that listening to upbeat techno music really helps me organize my thoughts.”  Typically, music without lyrics such as Beethoven and Techno music helps you focus. “Music with lyrics is very likely to have a problematic effect when you’re writing or reading,” said Clifford Nass, professor at Stanford University.  When you are listening to music with lyrics your mind focuses more on the lyrics than the actual work. When listening to rap your mind is bombarded with hundreds of words a minute, which just makes it difficult to concentrate. Listening to music without lyrics relaxes the mind and allows for a flow of thoughts.

However, scientists have found the mind naturally gets distracted by music even though you may not notice; the music will have a dramatic effect on your work. According to a 2010 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, “absorbing and remembering new information is best done with music off.” Nick Perham, the British researcher who conducted the study, notes that playing music you like can lift your mood and increase your arousal — if you listen to it before getting down to work, but it serves as a distraction from cognitively demanding tasks.

With both sides of the debate in mind, music may or may not be beneficial; it varies from individual to individual. Ultimately, it comes down to preference; some students may prefer background music as they study and others may prefer complete silence. Personally, music does not help me study when mentally strenuous assignments, although listening to Drake does help me write emotions in my papers.

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