Does Listening to Music Enhance or Hinder Studying?

By Bethany Spencer on July, 4 2017
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listening to music when studying is good or bad

Summer is well and truly underway and we find ourselves in the thick of festival season. Thousands of us are enduring the Glastonbury blues which was represented well by teachers, with ‘School of Rock’ teacher rocking out to Liam Gallagher whilst settling down with some marking - a testament to just how dedicated you are to both music and your job.

We had a fair share of attendees at Glasto and there are talks of festivals, gigs and performances circulating around the office and everywhere you look people are working away with headphones in, sparking memories of university libraries and late night revision sessions. We’ve even created a Satchel playlist so we can share our new music finds and long-standing favourites which we’ve made public so you can get an insight into what keeps us motivated over here at Satchel HQ.

All this music talk got us thinking - does listening to music enhance or hinder studying and our productivity levels? There’s been a lot of research into whether of not listening to music when studying is good or bad, with the effect of music on concentration having long been debated with the most well-known study being ‘The Mozart Effect’. Rauscher, Shaw and Ky (1993) found that listening to Mozart prior to undertaking tests on spatial reasoning actually enhanced their performance, however only for a temporary period of 15 minutes.

The actual findings of this study are commonly misconstrued with people interpreting the study to mean that listening to Mozart makes you smarter, which isn’t proven in this study. In addition to this study research conducted by Lesiuk (2005) found that for software developers, listening to music enhanced their performance -  which is good news for our dev team.

There is a lot of speculation as to how music does affect your ability to do work, and a lot of it comes down to personal preference - for example, I find if I have an admin task to power through or I’m working on formatting where I don’t need to read or write, it’s the perfect opportunity to listen to something loud and energetic, which music psychologists will tell you is because listening to music during boring tasks can help make it seem exciting, as you’re associating something you enjoy with a task you wouldn’t otherwise find enjoyable.

From all the research there isn’t any conclusive evidence to suggest ‘yes’ music does help when you’re studying or ‘no’ it is a distraction, a lot of it comes down to the individual - you’ve got to find what’s right for you. Research also suggests that the ability to work and study with music has a lot to do with your energy levels - for example, introverts already have high levels of internal energy and therefore don’t need extra stimulation so listening to music for them could be distracting. However, extroverts seek additional stimulation and therefore listening to music whilst studying or working can enhance their performance by offering the extra stimulation needed to get to optimum performance levels.

So the best piece of advice we could give you on this is to figure out what works best for you, but even if you can’t study or work with music on, you should still have a listen to the Satchel July playlist, you’ll definitely find something you’ll enjoy!

Next: What Can We Do to Reduce Teacher Workload?


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