The purpose of this paper is to review the different literature to find out which environment is more helpful in terms of studying. Another purpose is to develop an understanding of the effects noise, white noise, and music can have on performance, especially on memory. It was concluded that noise has detrimental effects on performance. However, there are many conflicting results as to whether music can improve or impair performance. Some studies show that music helped increase performance in logical tasks and routine tasks. Others show that music can be as distracting as noise. In addition, not enough studies were found on white noise and its effects.
Studies on music and its effects on memorization tasks were also not found. The results are inconclusive on whether an environment with music or with white noise is better for studying. There was also not enough evidence to conclude that white noise improved memorization skills more than music.
Finally, the type of music and tasks must also be taken into account as different types of music may have different effects and some tasks may be affected differently.?Introduction Many people have different ways to study and memorize information. Some may listen to music and claim that it helps them, and some may argue that studying in a quiet environment helps them to be able to memorize better. This idea of music having an effect on one’s ability to perform tasks has been an ongoing concept. Some students may study in a café where music is playing in the background while some may study in their room and choose to have music playing in the background. So what really is the best strategy to study; with music or without?It is important to note that although many people do not study with music in the background, they do not necessarily study in a perfectly quiet environment either. In a lot of scenarios, these quiet environments have white noise.
White noise is random noises that have a flat spectral density, meaning it has the same amplitude or intensity throughout the range in which humans can hear (Castro, 2013). White noise is analogous to white light in that it is a mixture of all the sounds or electrical signals in the audible frequency range (Castro, 2013). However, white noise is sometimes used as a general term to describe a constant background noise and has become an informal term for different sounds like nature sounds, machinery noise, and ambient soundscapes (Mann, 2017). In this case, it would be difficult for one to study in a room that is free of white noise.The purpose of this review paper is to examine the literature on which environment is better to study in. Is it the environment with white noise, or the environment with music? This review paper also aims to explore the effects of white noise and music specifically on memorization tasks.As a college student, being able to identify what the best method to study is can be extremely helpful. There are many articles out there that provide learning tips.
However, many of these articles still argue about whether studying with or without music is helpful. It is also important, and beneficial, that there is information available if music does hinder the student’s ability to study or if it can increase productivity when present.Previous studies have mentioned the Mozart effect which talked about how people performed better when listening to music composed by Mozart (Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky, 1993). This theory became widespread and many studies were conducted to test this theory. In the study done by Rauscher et al. (1993), it was said that spatial IQ scores were better when Mozart’s music was present. Williams (1961), however, found that reading comprehension tasks were not affected by classical music.Other studies followed up from the Mozart effect concept (Sandberg & Harmon, 2003).
Some supported music as a helpful source for performing tasks while some argued the opposite.A study that supported the idea that the presence of music is beneficial to one’s performance is one done by Smith (1961). He explained that music’s impact depends on the task. His study aimed to prove that music has a positive effect on routine tasks but would have a negative impact on complex mental tasks. He found evidence that supported his hypothesis about the positive effect for routine tasks but found that music had no effect on complex tasks.Furnham, Trew, and Sneade (1999) also conducted a study on the difference in performance on a coding task, a reading comprehension task, and a logic problem. They measured the performance on these task in the presence of silence and background vocal and instrumental music. It was found that instrumental music did increase performance on the logic task but did not improve performance on the other tasks (Furnham et al.
, 1999).An article by Dalton and Behm (2007) gave a systematic review on the effects of noise and music on task performance. According to the article, music is said to be as distracting as noise. The study found that musical stimuli may help driving performance, but despite the benefits, it can distract the driver’s attention and performance (Dalton and Behm, 2007).
The article first introduced noise and its effects on task performance. It claimed that noise has negative effects on task performance and is also capable of affecting one’s health and lifestyle. It mentioned that noise affects sleep, and therefore has an effect on the next day’s performance. Dalton and Behm also introduce a study revealed by Broadbent (1954) which suggests that continuous noise exposure above 90 dBA (A-weighted decibels) that is prolonged for more than 15 minutes reduces vigilance performance. Another study conducted by Smith (1988) demonstrates that noise reduces performance involving the detection of repeated numbers (Dalton & Behm, 2007). Dalton and Behm (2007) cited a study by Button et al. (2004) about how industrial noise and muscle contraction effects awareness. They noted that loud sound exposures had increasing effects on high concentration task because louder voice requires greater processing effort.
Dalton and Behm (2007) also mentioned other studies that showed that music can be a good stimulus for performing different tasks such as difficult visual vigilance tasks or karate task performance under fast-tempo, loud versus slow-tempo, and soft music. It is said that the music is stimulating as it increases motivation and arousal.Many other studies were done on the effects of music on performance, but these researchers have had conflicting theories and results. One of these conflicting results can be seen in Broadbent’s (1979) research versus Smith’s and Miles’ (1986) research. Broadbent (1979) looked at the effects that noise had on vigilance tasks involving sensory information and found that noise will only impair performance under these conditions: if the noise level is over 95 dB (decibels), if the signals are hard to notice, if caution was not encouraged in the situations, and if the length of the watch is too long.
When considering cognitive tasks, however, the results differ as studies report noise-induced impairments with 85 dB or lower and also even watch the watch in less than 30 minutes (Smith & Miles, 1986).Other studies, too, have shown contradicting results. A study has shown that in word-processing, although noise does not change the performance of the subjects, it was shown to be stressful as participants had an increase in urinary epinephrine levels as well as a decrease in motivation (Evans & Johnson, (2000). Oldham et al. (1995) found opposing results.
The study showed that those to listened to music had improved performance, organization satisfaction, as well as overall mood states. In a study by Furnham and Strbac (2002), research was conducted to examine introverts’ performances on complex cognitive tasks compared to the those of extraverts. The participants in the research had to complete three different cognitive tasks including a reading comprehension task, a prose recall task, and a mental arithmetic task in three conditions – in silence, with background noise, and with background music. A Latin Square was used so that the music condition counterbalanced the tasks and so that the combinations occurred with the same frequency. The results of this research showed that of all three tasks, introverts performed significantly lower than extraverts with music and noise in only one task.
This was on the reading comprehension task. However, there seemed to have been a trend for worsened performance for both introverts and extraverts in the presence of music and noise compared to silence. Furthermore, evidence shows that introverts are more negatively affected by background noise compared to extraverts on complex cognitive task when background noise was present.
On the other hand, rock and roll music played at 80 dB was shown to decrease performance on mathematical and verbal tasks from the national aptitude tests but did not show that there was a decrease in the scores on reading comprehension tasks (Tucker & Bushman, 1991). The results of this research were the opposite of those of Furnham’s and Strbac’s (2002) research. A research had been done on background white noise and how it affects memory performance. The concept of stochastic resonance suggests that some noise with a low sound wave that may be too weak to hear can be amplified if sound waves are added to the signal by other random or white noise. This concept has also been found to improve central processing and cognitive performance (Söderlund et al.
, 2010). The researchers looked into how noise can have different effects on attentive versus inattentive kids. It has always been a hindsight bias that distractions from the environment affect cognitive processing. However, individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are generally acknowledged to be more vulnerable to distraction than normal control children (Söderlund et al., 2010).
Researchers predicted that background white noise would enhance performance in inattentive children whereas it would worsen performance inattentive children. This research used fifty-one secondary school students and tested them in two noise conditions. All the participants were tested with a verbal episodic recall test.
The two noise conditions were a high noise condition in which background white noise was presented and a low noise condition in which there was no white noise.The results of the experiment showed that background noise improved performance for inattentive kids and worsen performance for attentive kids. In conclusion, cognitive performance in inattentive children could be moderated by using background white noise to eliminate the differences between performance inattentive and inattentive children. And, if carefully controlled, white noise could possibly improve attention (Söderlund et al., 2010).
Although there were no ethical issues about this study, there were a few weaknesses in this experiment. The participants in this experiment were not randomly selected or assigned which made the results more difficult to have a representative sample of a larger population. There were also only 2 noise levels included in this experiment, and only one type of cognitive test was tested. Having more noise levels would be interesting as the effects may vary. Other cognitive tests may reveal other results for other tasks.Harrison and Kelly (1989) also did a study, but on simple addition tasks, and found that ambient white noise improved performance more than quiet conditions.
Sandberg and Harmon (2003) investigated the effects of popular music on memory performance. The researchers hypothesized that popular music would have a negative impact on both studying and memory recall. There were 40 subjects who participated in this study. The researchers did not find any results to confirm their hypothesis.
Interestingly, findings from this study suggested that students who study while listening to popular music performed the same as those without music present. The results also showed that females were better in recalling without music in comparison to males.Finally, it is important to note that earlier research did not indicate an accurate picture of the effect that music has on learning as they were not considerate of the type of music people frequently listen to while performing cognitive tasks.