Music and the Mind: Does it Help?

Za'Niya Cline and Emily Duong

You’re in your room, trying to finish your giant pile of homework. You look at the clock, and it’s 9:50 pm. You sigh, frustrated and exhausted. To help, you grab your phone and earbuds and blast your favorite songs. Music is a great thing, but does it help students complete their homework and concentrate on the task at hand?

Multiple studies have shown that music can positively affect a student’s concentration greatly. Out of the 55 Bob Jones students we polled, 89 percent of our peers admit to listening to music to help them study. Bob Jones student Aubrey Anne Richards said, “It does because it calms me down when I’m trying to do stressful work and it clears my head up.” The research backs its effectiveness up. A trustee of the ThinkWell charity conducted a study, and found that, out of the 42 participants, about 50 percent “immediately increased their ability to sustain cognitive load by 150%.” The other half “decreased in this ability however many of these reported greater clarity of thought later in the day and improved their testing scores considerably.” The Guardian found that “Experiments by Maria Witek and colleagues reveal that there needs to be a medium level of syncopation in music to elicit a pleasure response and associated body movement in individuals.” Music with a good beat, but not too much, is the best for concentration. Some studies show that the music that helps you concentrate more than others is mostly on personal preferences.

Music doesn’t always help, though. The other 11 percent selected “No.” The 11 percent that answered were strictly males. Evan Leahy stated, “I usually tend to just focus on the music rather than what I’m supposed to be doing.” The majority of the people that answered yes were female freshmen. A study by researchers from Cardiff Metropolitan University split students into four groups to test on revising: one in silence, one with music they like, one with music they dislike, and one with instrumental music. Students in silence did better than the ones with lyrical music, the ones with instrumental music did better than the ones with lyrical music, and all the ones listening to lyrical songs (liked or disliked) had a reduction in their performance. 

Does the type of music matter? Freshman Aidan Boler said, “Yes. It depends on the type of music. Certain types of music I can get lost in, other types I can concentrate better with.” We asked our poll-takers which music they prefer to study to, and the top 5 answers, in order from first to last, were rap/hip hop, pop, rock and R&B tying for third place, classical, and Lo-Fi. 

Next time you decide to play something while doing homework, think about if the song is distracting or helping. If you usually do homework in silence, maybe try playing some of your favorite songs and see if it helps. If you aren’t getting the results you need by studying with music, maybe try a bit of silence. Learn what works for you.