Does Music or Silence Help Us Focus Better?

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Does Music or Silence Help Us Focus Better?

If you love to study while listening to your favorite tunes, you may be doing it wrong. Recent studies have shown that the brain’s performance is affected by noise and music. What’s more, different types of music can have a more profound effect than others.

Music with Lyrics

Just like your computer, your brain has what’s called working memory. You have a limited supply of it. When you’re doing too many things at once (multitasking), it’s similar to having too many browser tabs open on your computer. You get slow and can have issues storing and recalling information. Studies also show that multitasking can reduce your IQ by 10 points — and what is music if not multitasking for your brain?

When you listen to music with lyrics, your brain processes the language even if you’re not paying attention to it. This can interfere with reading comprehension and writing, both of which are critical for studying.

Instrumental Music

Instrumental and classical music effect your brain differently than lyrical music. Soft, slow classical music often has no effect at all on brain performance, according to a Macquarie University study. Music with an upbeat tempo, however, can be as distracting as lyrical music.

So should you or shouldn’t you listen to soft, classical music while studying? While it’s true that you may not study better with music playing in the background, it could make you feel more relaxed while studying. It’s important to pay attention to how you feel with music playing. If you’re getting some good out of it, there’s probably no harm in listening to certain types — but probably instrumental or ambient are best.

Sound of Silence

What about silence? While boring, silence is likely the best background noise for your studying sessions. A quiet room allows you to concentrate and study without distractions, which is ideal for comprehension and retention.

If you want the most out of your study sessions, study in silence or with soft, instrumental music playing in the background. If you’re feeling down, unmotivated or bored, take a break from studying and listen to your favorite jams. But turn them off when it’s time to concentrate again. This will boost your mood and release those feel-good chemicals in your brain but leave the brain free to focus when it’s time to work.