The Bad Effects of Listening to Music While Studying

By Stephanie Sigafoos ; Updated September 15, 2017
Teens listening to music.

The effect of music on studying depends to some degree on the student. Learning capabilities and styles vary. While some of us are auditory learners and may be soothed by music, others learn differently and therefore the impact of the music can also be different. Research does suggest, however, that any bad effects of listening to music while studying can be instant, triggering problems with memory, mood and other responses.

Memory and Music

Listening to music.

According to researchers at the University of Wales Institute, any music heard while trying to concentrate can be distracting and impair the ability to memorize and recall information. This conclusion was reached after 25 people were asked to recall information while in a quiet environment and again while music was playing that the participants both liked and disliked. The study participants all performed better in the noiseless environment, leading one researcher to conclude that people should either perform tasks in quiet or listen to music prior to performing a task, not during the task.

Comprehension and Music

Listening to music while reading.

According to Davidson College, background music significantly impacted reading comprehension scores of more than 300 students from five public junior high schools. The students switched between a quiet study hall and another where music was playing. Testing was conducted over a period of two days, and three-quarters of the students showed significant declines in reading comprehension scores when listening to music when compared to their scores recorded after testing in a quiet setting.

Mood and Music

Music and mood.

In research conducted by Loyola University, 45 male and 45 female college undergraduates were divided into three groups. The first group was exposed to no music, the second to moderate rock and the third to classical music during different studying and testing phases. A profile of moods test was also given to assess how different types of music made the participants feel. The participants reported a much higher level of anger while listening to rock than to classical music.

Sound and Classroom Acoustics

Sound in classroom.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association notes that a student's ability to hear and understand what is being said in the classroom is vital for learning. Unfortunately, this ability can be reduced in a noisy classroom. Therefore, reducing sound and reverberation in any space used for learning is important.

About the Author

Stephanie Sigafoos has been writing since 2004 and works as an online news producer. Her work and bylines have appeared on websites like tv.com and others. Sigafoos holds a Bachelor of Science in electronic media from Kutztown University.