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Music: A Help or Hindrance?

A student studying.

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A student studying.

Sarah Elvig, Staff Writer

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Does listening to music help you study? Does the kind of music that’s listened to make a difference? That’s the question that 22 Glacier Peak students were asked. All but one of those 22 students answered yes. They definitely do prefer to listen to music, one student even said “I can’t concentrate without it”.

And the kind of music makes a difference. One student stated. “If I’m listening to music with lyrics, I can’t focus”.

But the real question is…does listening to music help a student to learn? If you ask the professionals, the answers conflict.

According to Sheela Doraiswamy’s article “Does Music Help You Study?” posted in the Mind the Science Gap, research has found numerous benefits to listening to music before performing a task– it improves attention, memory, and even mental math ability. It has also been found to alleviate depression and anxiety. A 2005 study published in Psychology of Music found that workers who listened to music while working had higher productivity than those who didn’t.

Chris Boyd Brewer wrote in his book Music and Learning that music helps us learn because it will–

  • establish a positive learning state
  • create a desired atmosphere
  • build a sense of anticipation
  • energize learning activities
  • change brain wave states
  • focus concentration
  • increase attention
  • improve memory
  • facilitate a multisensory learning experience
  • release tension
  • enhance imagination
  • align groups
  • develop rapport
  • provide inspiration and motivation
  • add an element of fun
  • accentuate theme-oriented units

Other studies say just the opposite. The University of Phoenix advises that, “music with lyrics activates the language processing center of the brain and this can be distracting”.

With all this conflicting information, the conclusion we can come to is that we all learn better when we are happy and relaxed, so if music takes you to that place…put the head phones on!

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Music: A Help or Hindrance?