Students study with headphones and without headphones. Which method works best to retain information and focus? (Savannah Sanok)

Music: is it holding you back?

As students, we use all kinds of technology to keep us alert while we study. Listening to music is one of the more convenient ways to accomplish this.

Listening to music while studying has become more socially accepted, but there are several reasons why it is not beneficial for students:

1. Any minor distraction will decrease the quality of the work.

Music is a distraction that can leave a lot of room for error when someone is studying or focusing on a task.

The brain has to actively weed out the information coming from the music in order to focus on separate information from the study materials that the person is trying to absorb.

A journalist from the Daily Mail, wrote an article on a study done by researchers from the University of Wales Institutes where a group of students were shown a series of letters and asked to recite them back.

Some were shown the letters while sitting in silence, others while listening to music by their favourite bands or by groups they had a strong aversion to listening to music including tunes that they liked hampered their recall, the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology reports, according to Daily Mail.

2. The brain is overloaded with too much information.

When someone tries to read and memorize words of a page while also processing the lyrics of a song, it decreases the person’s capability to do either one well.

“The prefrontal cortex, the brain’s control center, must work harder to force itself not to process any strong verbal stimuli, such as catchy lyrics, that compete with the work you’re attempting,” said Dr. Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. “And the longer you try to concentrate amid competing distractions, the worse your performance is likely to be.”

3. The brain is not designed to multitask.

Listening to music and studying at the same time is multitasking, and you’re asking your brain to compete with itself which can decease output quality by up to 40 percent, according to

We cannot physically focus on two things at once, so our minds switch back and forth between tasks, which uses much more brainpower than we could be using if we did the assignment without music at all.

“It turns out that humans are amazingly horrible at multitasking,” said Mark Shead, a blogger for Productivity501. “Many people feel like they are improving their focus by multitasking, when they are really doing the opposite.”

In the end, quiet study time benefits students because it will allows them to give all of their attention and effort to one activity.

Music itself isn’t bad to listen to, but when doing an important job, it’s better to prioritize that over the need for constant distraction.

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