Written by Charlotte Gupta
At university one sure fire way for my day to be ruined would be for me to arrive at the library and not have headphones. I am not the type of person that can sit in total silence and work and I know I’m not alone. But does listening to music actually help you to work more effectively? Unsurprisingly there isn’t really a simple answer to this question but there have been a tonne of interesting studies and books written on the subject.
Daniel J. Levitin is a professor of Psychology and Music at McGill University and author of This Is Your Brain On Music. Levitin argues that it is the same brain chemical system that gives people pleasure from doing drugs that gives people pleasure from listening to music, and argues that music doesn’t only make us feel good but that it does good too.
However in terms of productivity because listening to music makes us have so much fun we’re much more likely to be less productive whilst listening to it. But all is not loss there is a phenomenon known as the Mozart Effect, in 1993 Raunchier et al claimed that after listening to Mozart’s Sonata for about 10 minutes people had better spatial awareness than those who listened to relaxing instruction, these results were controversial others confirmed similar findings. The Mozart Effect term is misused in clickbait and bad articles which claim “listening to Mozart makes you smarter” which certainly isn’t the case.
Other studies and experiments regarding music say that songs need to have the correct beat (syncopation) for us to gain a high enough pleasure response from it but for it not to be too pleasurable to distract us from actually working, for example very heavy metal has a chaotic feel to it which can be off putting but classical music can very relaxing but it may relax us too much. Funnily enough the middle ground experimenters seem to have found is funk music.
Music has the unique property to make repetitive tasks seem less tedious because we get so much joy from music it lets us do things like revision, jogging, cleaning for longer and more regularly because we can extract some fun out of them. So although when put head to head listening to music may never win against sitting in silence when it comes to being productive, because music makes tasks more enjoyable it means we are more likely to repeat them and for many things consistency and repetition is the key.
Personally out of all of the subscription services I pay for monthly I defiantly get the most value out of Spotify. I wouldn’t have done nearly as much studying in the library without my revision playlists the making of which was actually one of the best ways I found to turn my brain off from work. By listening to new music and getting music sent to me from people with far better taste it forced me to really listen and think about certain songs something I’d never really do for songs that just pop up on the radio. I’ve carried the habit of constantly having music on into the Synap office. Synap is a free education platform that uses the science of Spaced Repetition to help students revise, you can make your own quizzes for revision or fun and share them with friends. You can try Synap for free today and see if you can learn more in less time.
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Take a look at the Synap office playlist: