Listening to music while studying: Should they come hand in hand?


Thea Dai

Does listening to music benefit or take away from studying?

Billy Joel once said “I think music in itself is healing.” I couldn’t agree more. Although I love listening to music, I won’t listen to music while studying. Focusing on studying is already difficult, so adding another element of distraction is anything but helpful. During a recent free period, I noticed that some of my friends listen to music as they study. My first thought was, “How do they do that?” My second thought was, “My friends are very passionate, insightful, and capable students, so if they can listen to music while studying, it can’t be completely detrimental in an academic environment.

Getting motivated to study can be really hard, but it may be easier in a more positive mood. A researcher on the effects of listening to music while studying, Dr Timothy Byron from the University of Wollongong in Australia, agrees. In his article, “Is it OK to listen to music while studying?”, Dr. Byron stated, “Being in a better mood likely means that we try that little bit harder and are willing to stick with challenging tasks.” Listening to music can be used as motivation to get started and helps keep your mood positive while working.

I asked Mr. Mitchell, who teaches History and Social Science at Castilleja, what he thought about listening to music while doing work. He told me, “If you want to focus, learn, or comprehend something that is language rich, you should avoid simultaneously listening to music with vocals—it over taxes and distracts the left hemisphere of the brain.” In other words, when listening to music, our recall and memory are affected. The left hemisphere of the brain is used mostly for arithmetic, writing, and comprehension, so tiring it out could affect the efficiency at which you study. Given this information, it seems that listening to music without vocals has less of an effect on productivity.

In an interview with Olivia Nickel ’24 she said, “I can listen to music for classes where I am not writing words, so mainly Math, Chemistry, or Chinese,” leaving out both History and English classes. Ruby Dowling ’24 disagrees: “My brain tries to pay attention to both the music and the work at once. Focusing becomes really hard to do with my earbuds in.” Olivia’s experience implies that there is also a difference depending on which subject you are working on.

So, there are different considerations to listening to music while studying. First of all, music can improve your mood, which can be difficult to do while studying. Second, if you experiment with listening to music you should consider whether or not it has vocals. Lastly, different classes may demand different study habits. However, at the end of the day, it is just preference. Knowing both sides of the argument can help you decide when you listen to music and when you don’t. For me, I will continue to keep my music on pause while studying.