Can Listening to Music Increase Concentration?
Posted by Elebra on 4/12/2012
In the popular and award winning film "Broadcast
News" there is a hilarious scene in which the hero of the story is proudly
talking, singing and reading all at the same time! This does beg the question,
however...can background music actually help our brains focus or concentrate?
Is it possible to listen to the music AND absorb different information?
The answers are surprising. For one thing, some studies
looked at the ways that personalities affected the "level of arousal"
that someone might work best at. For example, a study done by Zuckerman in 1994
demonstrated that people who have an "introverted" personality need a
lot less stimulation or arousal in their brains to work at optimal levels. This
was tested by comparing groups of people identified as introverts against those
recognized as "extroverts". The results? The extroverts seemed to be
able to concentrate and perform better with a lot of "distraction".
So, does this mean that some music in the background is going
to disturb the concentration of some and enhance it in others? Yes and no. This
is because it has also been discovered that different types of music have
different results. For example, the studies did not consider things like
"pop" or "heavy metal" but instead categorized music as
"familiar", "unfamiliar" and "silence".
The results? Generally it was discovered that most people
actually perform assigned tasks in the "silence" state, and that
performance degrades as music transitions into the "familiar".
Clearly, this means that the brain is struggling to "listen" to the
music that it recognizes, or even likes, while it is also trying to complete a
What the studies did uncover is that personality types are
not affected any differently where this silence to familiar music testing is
done. In other words, if people struggled with familiar music settings, it
didn't matter whether they were within the introvert or extrovert category
because it appears that everyone listens to the background music when they know
the words and the tunes.
Interestingly enough, one last study identified that certain
types of music that have a "repeating structure", such as classical
music can help with focus rather than serving as a distraction. This is because
the beats in the music can actually have an "embedding" affect on the
brain in relation to the information being studied.
So, the answer is that music may help certain people to
concentrate more, but it depends entirely on their individual personality type
and the style of music being played!
Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical or any other type of advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you.