It’s exam time again and everyone is scrambling to their favourite study spaces to prepare. I am sure that we all know that study spaces come in all shapes and sizes, but the space I prefer: the library comes with its challenges.
Timing is everything when it comes to this study space. Every room, nook and cranny fills up incredibly fast and with classes winding down this week, the likelihood of somebody leaving their spot is dramatically decreased. They too know the value of the perfect spot.
On those occasions when having to study at home, instead of that distraction free library area, focus can be difficult to maintain. Television, music and an endless amount of both books and DVD’s surround my workspace putting my dedication to the test. Music is the biggest distraction in my study area and I constantly find myself focusing on the lyrics instead of what I am reading. I am not alone in this.
Many studies have been conducted around the way that liked and disliked music being played in the background effects our recall abilities. Many of these studies also used a quiet area where no music was played for comparison. The results of these studies were quite interesting, while many reported that those in the quiet area received higher recall results, those listening to music they liked and disliked, received slightly lower results. The key factor was that people recalled things well when they listened to music that had the same patterns going throughout all of the songs, music that was ever changing in its tone was more distracting. Although there were only small changes in performance across all three areas, a majority of the participants felt that they were distracted by the music and performed better in the quiet area.
These studies reflected that while it may not be damaging to listen to music whilst studying for an important exam or assignment, higher recall results will most likely be achieved by creating a quiet area, like you would find in the library come exam time.
At the end of the day, it comes down to what suits you the best. Whilst listening to favourite tracks may be distracting for some, it may be beneficial for others. Only you can work out what works for you.
 Nick Perham and Martinne Sykora, ‘Dislike Music can be Better for Performance than Liked Music’ Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol 26 No 4 (2012), 550-555.
By Rhiannon Lloyd