I often find that many of my close friends possess a fond memory from their youth. They are sitting at the kitchen table studying with headphones on only to have their mother rip them off their head while shouting “how can you concentrate with all that noise ....”.
And while I would never want to disrespect the wisdom of a brooding mother, adulthood should cause us to question certain aspects of our childhood (and perhaps even aspects of our adult lives when we fork over $300 dollars for disposable earbuds). The question we have to ask ourselves in this content streaming generation is can listening to music while working away at a computer or some other task that requires our attention actually help us to be more productive ?
Rats Hate Rock and Roll
Years ago there was a study about rats in a cage and rock and roll music. This was conducted by David Merrell of the University of Virginia who came to the conclusion that rats making their way through a cage took longer when listening to rock and roll music than that of Mozart. Based on this and other similar studies, many people came to the simple conclusion that music prevents individuals from concentrating.
But this is a simple answer to a much deeper question. In fact, another study conducted by an experimental psychologist Frances Rauscher based simply on using Mozart's music adds to the Merrell study but with a distinction that Mozart’s music is a superior element as it helped her rats complete the mazes in a faster time. This is based on the suggestion that the music by Mozart was instrumental in stimulating specific neurons in the brain, and by nature made the subject smarter.
Focusing By Whatever Means Necessary
We all understand the need to focus, because we have been through “unfocused” phases. Where there is one small task that we must do, but for whatever reason we have a hard time concentrating. We try and try and no matter what we do, it simply seems that our mind is constantly distracted by the buzzing phone or the need to check our email. Or perhaps we are visited by the “Cheese Monster”. The insatiable desire to get up and grab a snack right in the middle of attempting to solve a task.
Is it no wonder we will go through whatever means to stay focused ? I remember one particular craigslist ad for a “slapper”. This ad was posted by a developer who could not concentrate, but he so desperately needed to get things done that he paid someone to sit there and slap him in the face whenever he was distracted.
The Right Music For the Right Occasion
In North America the benefits of using music as a form of therapeutic treatment is practiced in many hospitals and clinics on a routine basis. This was based on what military officials observed during the first world wars when musicians were sent to play for soldiers. The notable difference in the troops following the musical events paved the way for musical therapy to be an adopted practice in 1944 by the university of Michigan and recognized by many faculties and governing boards.
By adopting this same approach, it is very easy to utilize music to apply to specific situations of our personal lives. Some pertinent examples might be the usage of high strung music for the purpose of trying to stay awake for long periods of time or using relaxing Youtube “study” music to set a relaxing atmosphere for study. But whether actual specific forms of music “aka Classical Beethoven vs Modern EDM” has any specific benefit is yet to be proven. But what is known to be clinically true, is that the effect of having a source of musical accompaniment can in fact assist an individual and help them to stay focused.
So if you personally find that you are unproductive while listening to music, perhaps the answer is to not take off the headphones, but find a more inspiring playlist.
1. Rats Hate Rock and Roll - Mozart was a genius, and his music seems to inspire
2. Focus By Whatever Means Necessary - Background music properly applied can help us stay focused
3. The Right Music - The choice should be based on the task at hand