Listening to Music and Working: The Secret to Productivity?

A focused teenage boy working on homework while listening to music through headphones.

Courtesy of iStock

A focused teenage boy working on homework while listening to music through headphones.

Heads down, headphones on. 

     Throughout our lives, music is used as a powerful tool. Whether you’re feeling anxious, frustrated, or sad—-music can often provide a sense of relaxation and further improve your mood. When listening to the chords of your favorite song or artist, the unique art form has the ability to steer you towards productivity, while also managing to touch emotions deeply.

     For humans, music almost serves as another language. It’s efficiently used to communicate, build identity, conduct physical experiences, and explore a wide range of emotions. It’s no surprise that music can be used for personal and academic success, since listening to music triggers the release of the feel-good chemical, dopamine, in both the dorsal and ventral of the brain.

     At Monte Vista, you can frequently find students on campus listening to music when studying or working on class assignments, something that teachers aren’t always fond of. They frown upon the idea of listening to music during an academic activity, barking at you to take out your headphones, which is almost always followed by a short lecture on paying attention in class. Though this idea is opposed by our mentors, it seems that students turn up the tunes to make the process of learning easier and less stressful. 

     Monte Vista senior, Emilio Lim, finds that while it’s easy to get distracted when working on assignments, listening to music often impacts his productivity, work ethic, and concentration at school. 

     “[Music] helps me to complete tasks at a faster pace in comparison to working in complete silence,” Lim said. “Certain kinds of [music] are able to motivate me both in and outside of class.”

     When listening to music, students are able to tackle important tasks in a timely manner while also keeping their minds occupied. Those who are easily bored in class and seek stimulation use music to capture their attention to promote academic success. It prepares the nervous system to accept new knowledge through prime auditory patterns, like rhythm. 

     As a result, during long study sessions or exhausting nights of homework, music contributes to cognitive exercise and endurance by activating both the left and right side of the brain. Through neurons in the corpus callosum, connective myelinated nerve fibers on both of these sides allow communication when listening to musical elements. In this case, the right side of the brain aids in the role of producing and responding to music, while the left side processes components, like pitch and tempo. 

     Aside from brain hemisphere communication, cognitive exercise, and endurance, music also aids in memory improvement. Students often take the risk of jamming subject material into their brains the night before an exam, and consequently, fail to remember anything the next day. This is where the “Mozart effect” comes into play. 

     In 1993, psychologist Franscis Rauscher discovered and conducted a theory proven to increase short term memory. The goal of the experiment was to test the scientific impacts of listening to music while taking a test. Rauscher placed 36 college students in a classroom and proceeded to play 10 minutes of a Mozart Piano Sonata as they completed assorted spatial reasoning tests. 

     Evidently, the end results had shown that the students scored significantly higher on the test while listening to Mozart’s harmonizing tones. The music triggered a variety of areas in the brain—-the parietal, temporal lobe, and prefrontal cortex, which indirectly led to refined test-taking skills and memory formation. 

     While the sounds of music continue to stir us at our roots, there are many exciting possibilities for integrating music into your learning environment. Regardless of your prior experiences with music, it has the ability to further increase motivation in new academic challenges, release tension, and further establish a positive learning environment. Being an avid music listener could just be the potential secret to productivity.