Your semester has probably started, and as we’re slowly beckoning for summer to arrive, already you’re wishing for it to end so you can hit the beach, isn’t that right? If this is the case, remember: not everything about going to class is bad. Try looking at the bright side of things or else you won’t be able to make it through the semester.
You can anticipate the feeling of summer, however, with a bit of music while you’re studying. The good thing about studying is going through a million Spotify playlists. If you’re anything like me, you’re used to doing this. What sometimes comes to mind is, “will listening to music be good for me or will it affect my attention?”.
Well, several studies have shown that listening to music before studying or performing other tasks that require your total focus can be beneficial. It improves your memory, attention, and reduces the levels of anxiety and depression.
Headphones can seem ubiquitous in a college library, a function of responsible students’ attempts to isolate themselves from the conversations and noises around them. However, another form of distraction may be coming right up those cables, and for some, it may be time to face the music — or more specifically, the lyrics.
“Music with lyrics is very likely to have a problematic effect when you’re writing or reading,” said Clifford Nass, professor at Stanford University. “Probably less of an effect on math, if you’re not using the language parts of your brain.”
Music has a profound impact on our state of being, altering everything from mood to heart rate. It can energize or depress us. Medium levels of arousal are ideal for studying — not too agitated and not too relaxed — and music can also be an effective tool in leading students to that level.
“Imagine trying to learn something while you’re on a roller coaster,” Nass said. “If you’re feeling agitated, you can listen to more calming music, and that will absolutely have a positive effect.”
Glenn Schellenberg, a professor in the psychology department at the University of Toronto, published a study that indicates fast, loud background music hinders reading comprehension.
“The reason why it’s a mess is you have cognitive limitations. If you’re doing two things at once you don’t focus as well,” he said. “On the other hand, we know that music changes how you feel, and often it can change how you feel in a positive way.”
In other words, it seems carefully tailoring the music you listen to while studying, based on the subject matter and your mood, can help keep you focused — so long as you stay away from lyrics while doing language-based work.
Music has always had its place at college, but as it has become more portable and high quality, it is reaching areas where it never used to take up residence.
“In my day, there was no way you could take music to the library,” Nass said. “When [today’s students] go to the library to study, they bring their noise, and music, with them.”
In any case, music is very likely better than Facebook and Twitter, and in a world where multitasking has become extremely common because everything is on one device, some students find music helps keep them focused while studying.
“Especially when music doesn’t have words, it can help me get into the reading and stop me getting distracted by other things,” said Melanie Fineman, a junior at Brown University. “It makes studying more enjoyable.”
Some more modern alternatives to the usual lyric-less Mozart:
• Paul Kalkbrenner
• Glitch Mob
• God Is An Astronaut
• Explosions in the Sky
Sofia Castello y Tickell is a Fall 2012 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent. Learn more about her here.Follow her on Twitter.
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