• Pete Drohan

Studying with Music: Helpful or Detrimental?


With the development of the iPhone and digitalized music, the music market has never been bigger and has never been this accessible. Music is a wonderful thing; it is not only the most popular form of art but it makes people happy and can help with concentration and memorization, as shown in the Mozart Effect.

With more young adults listening to music while studying, there has been an increase in concern regarding its effects. For me, listening to music when I study is anything but helpful. I often feel distraught; I have an inability to focus and extreme difficulty reading. Personally, I find it unbearable -- it simply does not work for me.

However, in every classroom, library and coffee shop there seems to be at least one person listening to music while answering emails, doing math problems or sometimes even reading. After noticing this, my curiosity led me to a study done by the University of Wales. They were hoping to shed some light on the topic.

For the study, students were asked to perform a simple test in the five scenarios. The scenarios were as follows:

1. A quiet environment.

2. A “steady state” speech. In this case, “three” was repeated for the duration of the test.

3. A “changing state” speech. In this case, random digits from 1-9 were played during the test.

4. A “liked” music, meaning a song of the student’s choice. Students brought in their own music; the only requirement was that it had to have vocals.

5. A “disliked” music, which in this case was a metal song called “Thrashers” by Death Angel (all students in the study disliked heavy metal).

The data collected was very interesting. To my surprise, the test scores of the “disliked” music, the “liked” music and the “changing state” speech were very similar. It was thus decided that the disliked, liked and changed state scenarios were unfavorable but equally unfavorable.

Test scores were significantly higher in the quiet environment and the “steady state” scenarios, as one could probably guess. This data shows that even if you are listening to music that you like, you are still at a disadvantage compared to those in silence.

Before you throw away your headphones for good, another study found that the test scores were, on average, lower when listening to music but there was a percent that scored in the same range as before.

In conclusion, the effect of music on studying is still a work in progress, but from the data displayed in the study done at the University of Wales, background music to aid your studying is just as helpful as listening to, say, a Seinfeld re-run in the background.