Listening to music affects studying performance according to UConn psychology professor

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The ’Mozart effect’ claims that people perform better on tests of spatial abilities after listening to music composed by Mozart,” Large said. (File/The Daily Campus)

Students falsely attribute listening to music while studying with increased focus and heightened cognitive abilities, according to University of Connecticut psychology professor and Director of the Music Dynamics Laboratory Edward Large.

In a study conducted by the University of Ulm, researchers found students perform worse when asked to recite a passage after listening to music with words than music that is solely instrumental.

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“Vocal music is more disruptive than instrumental music,” Large said. “This is not too surprising because music tends to recruit many of the same areas of the brain that are used for language, and vocal music actually includes language.”

“The ’Mozart effect’ claims that people perform better on tests of spatial abilities after listening to music composed by Mozart,” Large said. “It turns out that when the proper controls are done this effect disappears, suggesting that the Mozart effect is an artifact of arousal and mood.”

The Mozart effect can intensify mood arousal, which students mistake for heightened performance and cognitive abilities, Large said.

Some research suggests the more students study with music, the less disruptive the effect is, Large said.

“Studying with background music may be more okay with extroverts than introverts and for people with higher working memory capacity,” Lange said.

However, there is still more demand for research on the effects of music on academic performance, Large said.

“This question is definitely understudied so we don’t really know the answer,” Large said. “However, the small amount of research that has been done suggests that music disrupts phonological short term memory, and reading in silence is better for comprehension than reading to music.”


Bianca Castelan is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at bianca.castelan@uconn.edu.

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