While most people will agree that music can help reduce stress and science shows that studying music can boost memory and math skills, people and science seem to remain divided on whether or not listening to music while working or studying actually helps concentration and productivity.
Under Certain Conditions
Stress related to confrontations, dates, exams, and other scenarios can be eased by listening to music. Some will listen to certain types of music to express their particular mood, and let the song and the artist play out what a person’s feeling inside when that person can’t really express those feelings herself.
Certain types of music can liven up a dreary, monotonous workplace or commute, and also lull a person to sleep.
“Australian Monash University researchers Drs. Wendy Knight and Nikki Richard found that compared to those who worked in silence, people listening to relaxing music while preparing for a presentation showed a decrease in anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate” (www.yourworkplace.ca).
And, yes, music can actually help a person concentrate.
The key to music’s effectiveness in any one of these scenarios is the type of music listened to and under which conditions.
Music as White Noise
Researchers from the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff observed 25 students as they memorized lists of consonants. Some listened to music they liked or music they didn’t while they studied the lists; some had no music. The study revealed that students who listened to music, even music they liked, were not able to recall as many consonants as those who studied the list in silence.
A similar study tested students who listened to a voice repeating the number three, then with another voice saying random numbers. The random numbers proved to impede student performance while the repeating of the number three didn’t. This second observation suggested that quiet may not be all that’s important when it comes to productive studying or retention of information, and that lack of change in any background noise may also be the key to productivity.