Should you listen to music while studying?

- December 01, 2020

Go into any library or place of study and you’ll notice a number people reading, working or studying with headphones on. Sure, they might be listening to an audio book/podcast related to the subject matter at hand, but chances are they are listening to music, be it Mozart or Taylor Swift. This begs the question: is listening to music while studying beneficial or detrimental to learning?

The answer depends entirely on the individual.

In the early 1900s, a Dr Gordon Shaw developed the “Mozart Effect”, a theory that suggested listening to music (particularly classical music) could enhance intelligence. While this theory has been widely refuted, there are instances where it has been proven that listening to music while studying does have its benefits.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of listening to music while studying?

According to Registered Counsellor and Psychometrist, Madeeha Hargey, some students say music helps them concentrate, while others prefer to study in silence as they feel they have reduced concentration. A study conducted by Anastasia Kotsopouloua and Susan Hallamb at the University of Athens, Greece looked at this exact topic and analysed the type of studying as well as age and cultural differences. The results were varied, which proves it is entirely up to the individual’s personal preference and personality type; however, results did show that music played while studying was “most strongly reported to relax, alleviate boredom and help concentration.”

Music teacher Natasha Brehem suggests it’s not so much the fact that you are listening to music but rather the “feel good” emotions that are produced while listening to music you enjoy. These emotions naturally boost your mood, which indirectly helps you concentrate.

“It’s perhaps better not to listen to your favourite songs as you might end up being distracted – either by singing or dancing. Neither of which should be the focus of your study session. Instead, if you want to listen to music, try something instrumental with the volume on low so the focus can remain on your studies,” says Hargey.

What type of person are you?

Are you the type of person who gets distracted easily? Or are you a multi-tasker who needs a constant (like music) to keep you focused?

Bachelor of Education Kerri-Leigh Nash says “I definitely prefer studying in silence. As a child I used to suffer from ADD and my concentration was obviously a bit of a struggle. Now that I’m older, I’ve grown out of it, but it does still tend to impact me from time to time.”

Whereas B.Com Finance student Greg Armstrong disagrees, “If the content isn’t interesting enough and I feel my mind wondering, then I’ll put on a relaxing piece of music to study to. It definitely does the trick for me.”

The solution? Experiment and find what works for you.