studying to music

Music and Studying: Helpful or Not?

Updated By Staff Writer on August 28, 2020

Many people love listening to quiet, soothing music while they study. They claim it makes the study time more enjoyable and even helps them focus and stay on task. But is music helpful for learning? Or is the growing habit of popping in earbuds while studying doing more harm than good for students?

Is Music a Distraction While Studying?

Many people have heard about the “Mozart effect,” or the supposed phenomenon that listening to Mozart and other classical or instrumental music can make you smarter. And while participants in one study1 did better on a series of tasks after listening to Mozart for about 15 minutes, it’s important to note that they weren’t listening to the music while doing the task—only before the task.

So is music a distraction while studying? Since the Mozart study took place, more research2 has shown that listening to music while studying can actually decrease academic performance. In one study,3 researchers found that silence is necessary for developing new brain cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory. That’s not to say that music is never okay, but if noise and distraction persist too often, it can hamper your brain’s ability to function properly.

The Effects of Music While Studying

Since the human brain can never truly multitask,4 listening to music takes up some of the brain’s ability to process, and it can’t put as much effort toward retaining information relevant to the subject matter. Listening to music during study time can make students less efficient,5 too, so they may spend longer finishing a task than students who study in silence.

Music can have a positive impact on mood,6 so students who are really feeling down in the dumps while studying may get a much-needed boost by listening to their favorite song. But it’s probably best to take a break from studying to listen to the music, then turn it off when it’s time to jump back into the task at hand.

Related Content: Strategic Tips for College Success.

Does Listening to Music Distract You From Studying?

Many students won’t want to hear it, but yes, listening to music does distract you from studying. Despite the popular “Mozart effect” study, most research shows that listening to music while studying is more of a distraction and a potential hindrance than it is helpful.

Get More Study Tips

Looking for more tips on how to study smarter? Independence University can help. Learn how your workspace can affect your focus when studying, then find out if other hidden factors might be affecting your study habits. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to ace that test and succeed in college. Happy studying!