Music nowadays has become such an integral part of students’ lives. Students often listen to music while working out, while driving, while cooking, etc. There, however, have been a lot of controversial debate about whether music is a beneficial factor or a negative factor on cognitive abilities. Does music stimulate the brain to perform other tasks or does it act as a distracter and draw attention away from focusing on other tasks?

A study in the University of Maryland by a student sought out to see what the impact of different genres of music, played at different volume levels, have on the cognitive abilities of college students completing academic tasks. She notes various studies that have been done in the past, their construct and the dependent and independent variable, and designed a test that differed in conditions that have been done in the past.

She created 3 hypothesis:

1. Tasks performed in silence would yield better results than tasks performed both in the soft music and the loud music conditions, demonstrating that music is a distracter to cognitive performance.
2. Performance scores were expected to be significantly lower in the presence of loud music at a high intensity, suggesting that both the type of music and the volume at which the music is played are contributors to the distracting effect of music.
3. Performance was predicted to be significantly higher in the presence of soft music compared to loud music.

Essentially, the results of her experiment showed that participants performed significantly better in silence than under any music conditions, intensity levels, and types of music combined; participants obtained significantly higher test scores at low intensity than at high intensity of both loud and soft types of music; and performance scores were also significantly higher in silence than in loud music at high intensity. However, there was also no significant difference in test scores between participants in the soft music conditions and performance in the loud music conditions.

There have been other studies done in the past that show similar and also show contradictory results. However, this is a modern test that was conduced a year and a half ago, which acts as a more updated representative of our generation. There are many possible errors with the testing conditions but this test suggests that maybe we shouldn't listen to music while performing certain cognitive tasks. As a student who listens to music while doing homework or trying to focus on a task, I can say that music definitely distracts me from whatever else I am doing, which can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the task. I do admit that I perform best in silence though, and maybe that’s all we need sometimes, just a little silence. For more details about the study, please go to http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/762/the-impact-of-listening-to-music-on-cognitive-performance for the full process of the testing.

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