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Does Listening to Music Impair Our Ability to Learn?

edited April 2013 in 300 Hours
The quick answer - no. But don't despair there are caveats.

Listening to music while studying is relatively new. Not so long ago it was impossible to carry music with you and study in the library meant studying in silence. Now with the explosion of portable music devices, music is everywhere. And how else can I show off my my beats when I have exiled myself to studying for the CFA exam... Jokes aside we really shouldn't be listening to music all the time.

5 Reasons To Unplug Our Music
  1. We are terrible at multitasking. Listening to music slows us down because technically we are multitasking. Music and books! We are reducing our efficiency. The economist in us would disapprove.
  2. Our brain likes to focus on patterns. Listening to music - which is a complex pattern of tones shifts our attention.
  3. Our memory is liked to our senses. The strong scent of coffee might remind us of chatting with friends at a cafe, the scent of popcorn of our recent trip to the theater. Our auditory system works the same - a particular sound can cause memories to bubble to the surface. If you memorized a certain formula with music playing in the background you might not be able to recall it on exam day due to the lack of external stimuli. The background music might become the trigger needed to recall that particular information.
  4. Actually memorizing something with music is the background reduces our recall significantly. Memorizing requires full and undivided attention to have something beseeching for your attention isn't ideal circumstances.
  5. Listening to lyrical music while reading or writing is also problematic. The same part of our brain is trying to process two different streams of information.
The Caveats
  1. Listening to instrumental is recommended
  2. Listening to music we like can increase our attention span and helps when reviewing for a test.
  3. Soft slow paced music is recommended. Music can alter our mood so we don't want something we'll start dancing to or agitate us.
  4. Listen to music you are very familiar with, new music distracts.
We can listen to music while studying. I'm sure this comes to a relief to some of us. Music can be utilized to increase our efficacy when studying. However only in certain circumstances and never when memorizing.

Silence is golden, until next time.


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