Music interrupts studying

Submitted photo: Jessica Perillo for The Aquinas  SOPHOMOR MEGAN Fleming does her homework while listening to music for background noise.  Studies show, however, that music may distract students from comprehending material while studying for exams.

Submitted photo: Jessica Perillo for The Aquinas
SOPHOMOR MEGAN Fleming does her homework while listening to music for background noise. Studies show, however, that music may distract students from comprehending material while studying for exams.

Jessica Perillo
News Correspondent

Headphones in a college library or workplace can serve as material objects thought to help block out surrounding noises and conversation. However, the sound that travels from the ear buds to your ears can be a distraction in itself.

“It seems like music can be distracting and may take our attention away from studying because it is not easy to switch our attention to understand both what we are studying and the lyrics we are listening to,” Jill A. Warker, Ph.D., psychology professor at The University, said.

Warker said this topic has been studied numerous times, and it stems from the “Mozart Effect” that was a prominent idea in the early ‘90s.
Neurobiologist Gordon Shaw and graduate student Xiaodan Leng from the University of California at Irvine joined researchers Frances Rauscher and Katherine Ky in creating what became known as the “Mozart Effect” in October 1993.

Thirty-six students from UC Irvine were broken up into three groups, and they listened to either a selection by Mozart, heard a “relaxation tape” or had 10 minutes of silence. All three groups were then assigned the same test that was designed to measure the individuals’ IQs.

The results of this study found that the students who listened to the Mozart selection averaged a nine-point increase in their IQs compared to the students who listened to the relaxation tape and who were in silence.

Numerous researchers began conducting similar experiments after this original experiment stirred their interest.

Warker said although this original study found that listening to Mozart while completing a task proved that it made the students smarter, she feels that it was just a positive arousal rather than the Mozart music itself.

She also said that the study has not been replicated, and many studies, in fact, have found contrary results.

A study was completed to see the effects that listening to preferred and non-preferred study music had on reading comprehension skills in 2012.

In this study, 24 university students performed four reading tasks under different conditions. Students listened to preferred music, non-preferred music, a recorded noise from a café and no music or background noises at all. After reading each text, they took a reading comprehension test performed in complete silence.

Results from this more recent study revealed that students performed lower in the non-preferred music circumstance than when in silence. However, there was no significant difference between the preferred music and silence.

The study also found that certain music is not suitable during reading for certain people. Characteristics of music, such as tempo, genre and whether the song is instrumental or vocal have an impact as well.

Warker said that although listening to music while studying or completing a task is not effective, music that does not have words in it seems to be a better option for those who prefer background noise. This is the case because it is difficult for the brain to comprehend reading material while also having an interference of lyrics from a song.

“Another issue is that the environment in which you were listening to music while studying cannot be replicated while taking a test,” Warker said.

Because majority of professors do not allow students to listen to music while completing an exam, it is ineffective to listen to music while studying because the environment will not be the same while taking the test.

Warker referred to this as state dependent learning, and she said that memory performance is highly effected in a situation like this.
Although listening to music may be able to distract students from hearing surrounding noises and conversations while studying, it has been proven that music is its own distraction.

One Response to Music interrupts studying

  1. Desy H. Reply

    May 21, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Agree with the article, nice informantion. Thank you for sharing

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