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Pro’s and con’s of studying with music

Students can be seen listening to music with their earphones while walking around campus or doing their school work. Constantly listening to music has both positive and negative effects.

“Music has a profound impact on our state of being, altering everything from mood to heart rate,” according to a USA Today article about listening to music while studying. “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.”

Students should be careful in choosing what kind of music they listen to, according to USA Today. Music with lyrics can be very distracting, especially when the language parts of the brain are activated, as they are when the student reads or writes. When the mathematical or logical centers of the brain are employed, lyrics pose less of a threat to a student’s focus, though it is still unwise to choose such music.

Kassidy Stailey, a senior studying biology, said that it is good to listen to music similar to the music that will be played while taking a test. “So when you listen to music that’s similar to that, it helps bring this to your recollection,” Stailey said. “It creates a pathway to those memories and things that you’ve studied.”

There are electronic pathways in the brain that form between memories, Stailey said. When those memories are tied to music, the pathways are used more often and grow bigger, making the memories easier to access.

BYU-I offers a testing room with quiet music in the background for those students who prefer a little background noise. So, if students study while listening to the same kind of music, the things that they studied can be easier to recall.

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“Music helps keep me focused,” Stailey said. “I don’t like the quiet or when people disrupt the quiet even by walking in. I tend to look up and see who it is and then I have to try to get back into the mode of studying. When I’m listening to music, I can stay in my groove.”

Music helps in academic performance more than just random background noise, according to a study by scientists Stacey Dobbs, Adrian Furnham and Alastair McClellend of the University College London. They concluded that silence was best but that the distraction of music in the background was better than background noises such as TV or a crowded room.

“If you want to be alone with yourself, then it’s good to have earphones,” said Tyler Owens, a senior studying business management. “It kind of blocks the world out for a while.”

While music may help some students focus, it may have the opposite effect on more musically analytical minds.

“For me, music is really just distracting,” said Laurel Jenkins, a freshman studying music education composite. “I focus on my music more than I do on homework. As a music major, we are trained to analyze the music, but also it’s just this connection that we have with music. We hold onto it and we develop it. And when I study, music is almost separate. When I practice music I am focusing on the passion and the emotional side of it. There’s no casual part of listening to music, for me. And even if is classical or modern, the music is still there, it can still pull your mind away.”

Jenkins said it took her twice as long to complete a difficult assignment when she listened to music.

As for wearing headphones, students should take caution with their volume levels and how often they wear the earphones, according to Mother Nature Network, a website dedicated to the spread of academic information and the improvement of life through education.

Listening to loud music for a short amount of time causes just as much hearing damage as listening to music at lower volumes for a longer period of time, according to the Mother Nature Network website.

Stailey said she listens to music or has her earphones in at least 50 percent of the day. She sets her volume at about halfway because she knows that loud volumes can dammage her hearing, but she stills loves to listen as much as possible.

“Music is a huge part of us,” Jenkins said. “It’s part of our culture and everything. So, you can’t just get rid of music. For me, through trial and error, I’ve found that music has its place but not in my studying.”


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