Music may interfere with learning

Studies show music may serve as a distraction in learning process

by Alexa Vlahos
Student Contributor

The majority of students will turn on some form of music while they are studying or doing their homework. However, a new study from the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, United Kingdom, suggests that listening to music while trying to memorize course material in a certain order may not help in the learning process.

The institute conducted an experiment in which 25 men and women ages 18-25 were played music while they were attempting to memorize a list. The experiment volunteers were tested under various conditions: studying in a quiet room, studying while listening to music the subjects enjoyed, studying while listening to music the subjects did not enjoy, and an audio recording of a voice repeating the number three. The best results came from studying in a quiet environment and studying in a room with an audio recording of a voice repeating the same word.

Dr. Nick Perham, the lead researcher for this experiment, said” The poorer performance of the music and changing-state sounds are due to them containing lots of acoustical variation, the order of which impairs the ability to recall the order of items, via rehearsal, within the presented list. Other tasks and processes that also require the ability to retain order information in the short-term via rehearsal, such as mental arithmetic, may be similarly affected by their performance in the presence of changing-state, background environments.”

In other words, the constant changing rhythm of certain  music  interferes with the brains ability to recall orders of items when memorizing material from a list. He also speculates that the human brains capacity to retain information in a room filled with different rhythms may also extend to arithmetic, although he has not conducted an experiment to test this theory.

For those who enjoy listening to music while studying, according to Dr. Perham,” most people listen to music at the same time as, rather than prior to, performing a task but to reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in order, one should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task.”

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