What you should be tuning into while studying

Emily Hepner
Assoc. Features Editor

We’re officially five weeks into the fall semester and the workload for Millersville students is starting to get turbulent. The sight of students hovering over textbooks, laptops and notebooks is increasing, as midterms loom closer. But for almost every face with a furrowed brow on it, a pair of ear buds or headphones can be found accompanying these stressed students. “I enjoy listening to music while I study because it keeps me focused more than studying in silence could,” explains senior Jamie Tyre. While studying and listening to music go hand-in-hand for college students, is it actually beneficial to your study time?

While listening to music and studying may seem like a good idea, the end results aren’t as beneficial.
While listening to music and studying may seem like a good idea, the end results aren’t as beneficial.

One study done by Dr. Nick Perham at the University of Wales shows that music can interfere with your short-term memory. Perham’s research proves that if the music you are listening to has acoustic variations it can impair your learning experience, however if the music has little variation, then it is not impaired as much. Perham also found that listening to music that you don’t like compared to music you do like while studying has the same negative effect on your studying experience.

Another study done by Clifford Nass at Stanford University backs up Perham’s findings. “Music with lyrics is very likely to have a problematic effect when you’re writing or reading,” stated Nass to USA Today. This is no surprise since music can make us feel so many different ways. If you’re listening to an upbeat song with catchy lyrics, that song is going to get your blood flowing and the last thing you’ll want to do is cram for your exams in the library.

In fact Glenn Schellenberg , a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, has proven this. He explains that your brain has limitations and listening to fast-paced music with lyrics while studying won’t allow for you to focus as well. Listening to a song with lyrics while you’re studying a language or reading can be especially counterproductive. “You’ve got semantic information that you’re trying to use when you’re reading, and you’ve got semantic information from the lyrics,” explained Perham. Even if you understand and know the lyrics word-for-word, it’s still not helping you to learn what you’re reading.

But we all know these facts aren’t going to stop us from continuing to listen to our favorite songs while studying. Spin Education recommends listening to something, or even doing anything, you really enjoy before you start studying. This way you’ll be in a satisfied mood when you begin your work and it will keep you more motivated to keep going. USA Today suggests that if you are going to listen to music while studying, you should try tailoring the music based on subject matter and your mood, to help keep you focused.

“I enjoy listening to Bon Iver and Alt-J when I’m studying because they put me in a calm mood and it makes studying easier,” stated Tyre. Some studies have shown that listening to Mozart while studying can improve your short-term memory, which is known as the Mozart Effect. If Mozart and other classical lyric-less songs aren’t your style, they recommend Ratatat, Explosions in the Sky and God is Astronaut, which are popular favorites among college students.