Music and Studying: Good or Bad?

By Alexander Ogloza on January 18, 2012

Sound is good, but music is better.

Listening to music is a great way to pass the time, and thus seems like the natural solution to help along those long, long (and if I may one more time) long study sessions most students find themselves having to endure while in college.

Bad news, guys. Chances are the music you’re listening to is seriously hindering your ability to learn the material you’re studying for.

Credits Flickr/shankar, shiv

Credits Flickr/shankar, shiv

Studying while listening to music is, in most cases, completely counter-productive. If music is playing, your brain automatically spends energy interpreting it – both the lyrics and the beat. This divides your brain’s attention, and thus causes the student to have a difficult time memorizing the material in front of him/her.

In order to memorize information, your brain first stores it in your short-term memory bank. To get it into the long-term portion of your brain, you’ll need repetition. This repetition, however, is interrupted through listening to music, or more specifically the lyrics and beat of the music.

Yet all music isn’t bad. In fact, some of it has a positive effect whilst studying.

When you write, you trigger the left hemisphere of your brain. When you’re listening to music, you’re triggering the right hemisphere of your brain. When there are lyrics in a song, the left side of the brain becomes divided. It tries to decipher the your school material and analyze the words in the song at the same time. It is done completely subconsciously, and is essential why music is not good to listen to while studying.

However if the music doesn’t have any lyrics, then the left side of your brain no longer has to split its attention.

Furthermore, listening to music without lyrics will still stimulate the right side of the brain, and now essential both are firing at the same time.  When both hemispheres work simultaneously, they work better as a whole. Thus, non-lyrical music actually increases your ability to memorize and retain information.

Most experts agree that Classical music is the way to go.

Mozart’s and baroque music (music in the 17th and 18th centuries from Europe), which maintain a pace of 60 beats per minute (very specific, I know), is actually said to increase learning potential by up to five times normal amounts.

The Greeks sang their dramas for this very reason. The lyrics triggered the left hemisphere of the brain and the music triggered the right. In this way, these people were able to memorize incredibly long poems (ever heard of The Odyssey?) without ever having to write down a single word.

Also, listening to such music before taking a test has been shown to have great benefits. A song such as Mozart’s Sonata for Two Piano’s in D Major has been shown to release particular neurons in the brain, which act to relax the body. You’ll go into your test feeling great, which can truthfully only be a plus.

Take into account the power that music has on learning ability and the clear choice is to start incorporating some classical music into you’re study regiments immediately. It’ll truly step up your (study) game and I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

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