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A Reader’s Guide to the Effect of Music on Learning

By: Samika Satheesh

A Reader’s Guide to the Effect of Music on Learning By: Samika Satheesh

Table of Contents

Introduction: What is the Relationship Between

Music and Learning? …………………………………………… 3

Positive Effects of Learning with Music ………

4

General Positive Effects of Music ……………………

6

Different Types of Music and Their Effects …

7

Negative Effects of Learning with Music ……… 8

Sources ………………………………………………………………………

9

Introduction: What is the Relationship between Music and Learning?

In the competitive world we live in today, students constantly face pressure to be the best in school. To be the best, students are always trying new ways to facilitate their learning strategies, whether this includes the location or amount of time the student dedicates towards their studies. External factors such as music may also have an effect on a student’s learning ability. Many students include listening to music during their process of studying. They believe having music in the background has a positive impact on their study skills. This improved studying method correlates with higher memorization and increased comprehension skills. Along with the direct impact on the specifics of the student’s learning ability, there is a change in the overall mood and attitude the student has towards the study material. As the student listens to the music that they enjoy and there is an improvement in the mood there could be an increase in motivation throughout the learning environment as well. Others argue that music is simply a distraction and does not act as a learning enhancer. Different types of music have various effects on students, such as the level of distraction. Aspects of music that cause these different effects include, intensity, rhythm, volume, and presence of lyrics. There have been studies done with students to test if there truly is a correlation between music and learning ability. Throughout this reading guide there will be an inquiry regarding whether listening to music while studying truly has an impact on a student’s learning ability. The first chapter will discuss perspectives that support music having a positive impact on a student’s learning ability. The second chapter will compare how different music types can have different effects. The last chapter will convey the perspectives of why music is simply a distraction and has a negative impact on the student’s learning ability.

the perspectives of why music is simply a distraction and has a negative impact on the

Positive Effects of Learning with Music

Students have reported the beneficial impacts of listening to background music while learning. One main reason for this is that music provides a more enjoyable mood in the corresponding learning atmosphere. Music provides “the user more control to personalise their learning environment with something they already find engaging and relevant”(Leo Learning Web Team, 2013). This personalized environment allows the student to connect more with the learning material and this will have a positive influence on the ability to memorize the content as well. Music forces multiple sections of the brain to work together activating the active listening and even the memory. Memory skills can be found in the left atmosphere. Music triggers almost every section of the brain. Although these parts of the brain are activated during studying with music, there is no evidence that proves a direct scientific connection between music and an improvement in learning.

connection between music and an improvement in learning. Advocates for music as a learning enhancer use

Advocates for music as a learning enhancer use the arousal-mood-hypothesis to further provide scientific evidence for this theory. This idea relates to the suggestion of music creating a more motivating and stimulating atmosphere. While the student listens to the music that is enjoyable to them during their studying process, the learning material may even become more enjoyable to the student. This can be explained because, “​music can add meaningful context by making the experience personally relevant and authentic for the learner, raising attention with emotional charge” (Leo Learning Web Team, 2013). The student starts to share the same emotional connection that is felt with the

music with the study material as well. This will eventually have positive effects on a student’s learning ability.

A well known concept that even many teachers use in a classroom setting is called the Mozart Effect. Teachers will play classical music as there students complete work during class, many times resulting in higher quality work. There have been studies made where students listen to music written by Mozart and then complete different tasks that require a decent amount of brain activity. The classical music written by Mozart had a positive effect on the student’s ability to perform the tasks. ​The Mozart Effect is a well known major factor of the relationship between music and a student’s learning ability. This effect specifically targets the memory skills of the student. Memory skills tend to be correlated with specific parts of the brain and studies about the Mozart Effect focused on these parts. This idea has spread beyond students and their learning ability. The Mozart Effect even went on to have an effect on health care aspects. Many people in the healthcare profession rely on this theory in order to help their patients. Music has been known to decrease stress levels due to neurotransmitters that are released while listening. This is helpful when healthcare professionals want to help with anxiety cases. The decrease in stress levels connect back towards a student’s learning ability as well. This allows the student to be more focused rather than feeling pressured and stressed to recall the information.

as well. This allows the student to be more focused rather than feeling pressured and stressed

General Effects of Music

Positive impacts of listening to music expand beyond a student’s learning ability. Music can have an impact on one’s overall mental and physical health as well. Anxiety is one of the most commonly known mental illnesses that use music as a natural remedy. Doctors who treat patients with illnesses such as high blood pressure and cancer will recommend them to listen to music to help speed their recovery process.

“Exposure to sound, music, and other forms of vibration, beginning in utero, can have a lifelong effect on health, learning, and behavior”(Campbell, 1997). Music can have a lasting positive impact on other aspects of life, along with one’s learning ability. This positive impact can include decreased levels of stress, increased amounts of sleep, and even reduce depression. Listening to music stimulates the opposite internal sensations that are triggered by stress. This will therefore contribute to a person’s overall greater physical and mental well being.

are triggered by stress. This will therefore contribute to a person’s overall greater physical and mental

Different Types of Music and their Effects

When trying to observe whether music has a positive or negative impact on a student’s learning ability it is necessary to delve into the specifics, such as the type of music the student is listening to. Listening to music that has an excessive amount of lyrics involved can have a negative impact on learning because, “vocal music is more distracting than helpful, particularly when trying to memorize”(Computer Systems Institute, 2015). As the student attempts to memorize the study material, the music containing lyrics can cause a distraction even if it just played in the background. The student’s brain will unwillingly focus on the words from the song rather than concentrating on the study material. Along with lyrics, the tempo, volume, and rhythm have an effect on student’s as well. Music that is played softer in the background and has a fast tempo can have beneficial impact on the student, while music that is louder will take too much attention away from the study material. Also slower tempos do not create the specific mood needed for the student to feel motivated in the learning environment. Music that is familiar to the student can display varying effects onto the studying process. One possibility could be the familiarity allows the student to feel more comfortable with the learning material that is unfamiliar towards the student. This will motivate the student to study harder and truly understand the concepts better. Another possibility that comes with listening to music that is familiar is that it is more likely to be a distraction for the student. The student will unknowingly find themselves paying more attention to the music that is easier for them to understand and connect with. This type of music varies with the type of student.

Negative Effects of Learning with Music

People who disagree with the idea that music acts as a learning enhancer for students mainly believe that people are unable to truly multitask. They state that although the music will be played only in the background and the student believes it is helping their concentration, it is merely only having a detrimental effect on the student’s focus. “When learning with background music, the learners have to divide their attention between the learning task and the music.(Lehmann, 2017)” Music causes a distraction because unknowingly parts of the brain will start to focus on the music. Although the music may be creating an overall enjoyable mood that could be helping the student feel more involved in the study material, the student may end up becoming too involved in the music as well. To test this theory, social scientists Nick Perham and Harriet Currie coordinated four groups of student each with a separate task. One group consisted of studying in silence, the second group studied with songs that had lyrics they favored, the third group studied with songs that had lyrics they did not favor, and the last group studied with songs with no lyrics. The results stated that students studying in silence performed better than students who listened to music. The students who participated in this study claimed that the music provided a distraction although it did increase their mood as they studied. The social scientists were able to conclude that music may not have a direct influence on impacting higher intelligence skills but it does create motivation to reach these higher standards.

a direct influence on impacting higher intelligence skills but it does create motivation to reach these
a direct influence on impacting higher intelligence skills but it does create motivation to reach these

Sources

Lehmann, Janina A. M., and Tina Seufert. “The Influence of Background Music on Learning in the Light of Different Theoretical Perspectives and the Role of Working Memory Capacity.” Frontiers in Psychology, Frontiers Media S.A., 2017,

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5671572/.

LEO Learning Web Team. “How Does Music Affect the Learning Experience?” LEO Learning, 4 Nov. 2016, leolearning.com/2013/08/how-does-music-affect-the-learning-experience

Computer Systems Institute. “How Does Listening to Music Affect Studying?” Computer Systems Institute in MA & IL, 4 Feb. 2016, www.csinow.edu/blog/how-much-does-listening-to-music-affect-your-studying/

Campbell, D., & Campbell, D. (n.d.). The Mozart effect: tapping the power of music to heal the body, strengthen the mind, and unlock the creative spirit (1st ed.). New York: Avon Books.

Shorr, Ardon, director. Unlocking Music with Neuroscience. YouTube, 19 Apr. 2012,

youtu.be/cswhOCKQZ7Q.

Sacks, Oliver. “Music and the Brain ~ The Importance of Early Musical Training.” PBS,Public Broadcasting Service, 10 Sept. 2018,

www.pbs.org/wnet/musicinstinct/video/interviews/music-and-the-brain-the-importance-of-early-

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Hattie, J., & Yates, G. (2014). Visible learning and the science of how we learn .London;:

Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Laughlin, Frank. “Frank Laughlin.” Emerging Education Technologies, 30 June 2016,

“How Does Music Affect Your Brain?” Ashford University,7 June 2017, www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/student-lifestyle/how-does-music-affect-your-brain.

Busch, Bradley. “Drowned in Sound: How Listening to Music Hinders Learning.” The Guardian, 14 Mar. 2018,

www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2018/mar/14/sound-how-listening-music-hinders-learnin

g-lessons-research.