I'm listening to music while I write this. I love listening to upbeat songs to get some writing done. But what about when I’m studying? Or practicing for an exam? If I’m going to study, I’m going to make it count.
It turns out, there is a lot of research about the psychological effects of music. People listen to music for many reasons: to help their mood, improve self-awareness, and for “social relatedness”.
Many people listen to music specifically in an attempt to boost brain power. This is based on something called the Mozart effect, which is the idea that listening to Mozart will make you smarter. The effect came about when a study in the 90’s found that young adults who were made to listen to Mozart, compared to silence or listening to relaxation instructions, had better special reasoning. It turns out, the Mozart effect is more of an urban legend. This BBC article details how it came to be, and why it’s flawed.
More recently, science suggests something different. In a meta-analysis, they looked at studies that either had background music or not. They found three important points:
1. Background music interferes with the reading process
2. Background music may have small but negative effects on memory, and
3. It can have positive effects on emotional responses.
My take-aways? If I want a mood boost, or some motivation to complete a tedious and repetitive task, I’m going to play some of my favourite songs. But I’ll stay away from it for more intense study sessions. As for practicing for exams, you know our take at Crush the CASPer®: your practice should reflect your exam set-up. Which unfortunately means no music.
All that being said, sometimes I just don’t want to study or do exam practice. And if music helps me get it done, then I’m gonna listen.