It’s known to soothe the soul but can music also help people study?

Macquarie University music psychologist Kirk Olsen says music can stimulate the imagination – especially while undertaking creative tasks.

But he wanted to know if it also helps with concentration – particularly if music can drown out domestic distractions as more people study and work from home.

His research found that listening to music while studying or trying to focus on work can be helpful for some people, in certain situations.

“If you are studying in a distracting environment such as a busy coffee shop, listening to quiet music through headphones can mask those sources of distraction and replace it with a predictable and enjoyable source of stimulation,” he said.

Music can also help to calm students who are finding the material difficult or stressful, he says.

The ‘Mozart effect’ is a well-known phenomenon that emerged from a 1993 study that showed that people who listened to Mozart performed better on a mental task than those who did it in silence.

“Follow-up research has largely discounted the hypothesis that listening to classical music puts the brain in a sophisticated operating mode,” Dr Olsen said.

However, it’s likely that listening to music may be linked with higher performance because music can put people in a better frame of mind.

So, listening to any music you enjoy can improve your mood and help you work more effectively

“Music can help to make a tedious task more enjoyable, and this can help motivate students to continue studying for longer periods of time,” Dr Olsen said.

“Music can even stimulate the imagination, so can act as a source of inspiration for tasks that involve creative thought.”

However, fast and loud music or music with lyrics have a greater chance of pulling the listener’s focus off task.

And musicians always find music distracting because they are so used to listening attentively to it.

One study found that extroverted people can perform well on a task while listening to complex or fast-paced music, whereas introverted people performed better with slower-paced music or no music.

How to use music to help you study:

* Choose music with no lyrics and minimal amounts of abrupt and noticeable changes.

* Keep the volume low so music is in the background.

* Choose music that suits your personality and what you’re working on.


Maureen Dettre
(Australian Associated Press)