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Can Music Boost Productivity While Learning?

December 10, 2019


Listening to music while working can boost productivity by 15 percent, according to a new study. The analysis was commissioned by Scala Radio and it focused on a sample group of 2,000 employees. Half of these employees enjoy listening to music at work, while the other half is sincerely against it. Psychologist Dr. Becky Spelman studied all of them to discover if and how music can increase productivity in the workplace. The results were surprising. 

During the study, employees were given two assignments. They were asked to transcribe 600 words of music lyrics – at first, in silence. The second task was the same, but with classical music playing in the background. The workers managed to complete the silent task in 20 minutes and 59 seconds on average. When they got to the second, with music in the background, they were surprised to discover it only took them 17 minutes and 42 seconds. Music seemed to boost productivity in the office by 15 percent, the scientists noted. Can it do the same for students everywhere and help them work their way through high school and college with ease? 

Can Music Influence Learning?

Just like these UK employees, countless students around the world find that listening to music while studying or preparing their papers helps them remain alert and focus better on the tasks at hand. Some of them are struggling with stress and anxiety and find that music can help them keep these problems under control. After all, anyone coping with high-pressure situations knows that music is a great way to relax. On the other hand, not all students agree that music can help when it comes to concentration and memorization. Some even go as far as to say they find music to be an unwelcome distraction from their work.

Music might be an effective stress reducer, but that doesn’t mean it can help all students focus better on their tasks. However, studies have shown a remarkable difference in the way that students perform on a quiz if music was involved. Those who attended a lecture with music played in the background did better than those who listened in complete silence. The scientist who conducted the study concluded that classical music played in the background helps students forget their worries and focus better. It seems that soothing music doesn’t distract most students, it actually helps them study more efficiently.

More Than Meets the Eye

While certain studies seem to prove the idea that students benefit from background music while learning, others disagree. One study in particular suggests that learning with background music is not necessarily beneficial for students, and certainly not for all students. The experiment showed that students with minimum capacity levels were notably impaired by background music when studying. By contrast, those with higher working memory capacity found background music to be a neutral factor. For these students, it’s a matter of personal choice as to whether they prefer to listen to music while learning or not. Some choose to do so as an effective way to boost their emotional state. 

Students are advised to be prudent when choosing the music they plan to listen to while studying. Scientists note that songs with lyrics have a higher potential to be disruptive compared to instrumental tunes or classical music. They also mention that certain melodies can sometimes provoke an intense emotional response in students, thus undermining the learning process. However, different genres of music are available worldwide, and every student is free to choose. The best choice might even be conducive to learning, according to science.

In summary, students who find listening to music a distraction are advised to study in silence or in an environment that better suits their own needs. Music is by no means the complete answer to all problems a student faces while learning. However, for those who find background music relaxing and helpful in managing anxiety and stress, calming music might be more than welcome. The best choice of music when it comes to learning seems to be classical music, as well as songs without lyrics. These particular genres may help students relax and won’t divert their attention from the tasks at hand. As is the case with many studying methods, playing background music while learning proves to be an individual choice.