Music may disrupt learning, study says
In many situations, music can be a good source of focus for more mechanical tasks, but when it comes to absorbing information - learning something - it is best to remain silent. This may be true at least for older adults, as a study at the Georgia Institute of Technology found.
The researchers selected college students and slightly older adults to form two analysis groups. Both were subjected to the same circumstances, but the results were substantially different.
First, all participants had to memorize people's names and faces while in an absolutely quiet environment. In the second test, everyone went through the same situation, but this time with background music. Various types of sound played as participants memorized the items. They also had to rate how annoying the music playing in the room would be.
After these tests, the researchers picked up the results by asking participants which faces belonged to which names. In the undergraduate group, there was virtually no performance difference in testing with music and without music.
In the older adult group, a 10% performance drop was noted when participants were memorizing names and faces while listening to music. Either way, adults and young people told researchers that the music was the most annoying thing that helped with that kind of testing.
Young vs. Adult
The researchers' conclusion in this case is that once the human brain gets older, it loses the ability to focus completely on a learning activity when there are external elements that deconcentrate it. In that case, the music. However, younger people, while also realizing the distracting elements, are still able to maintain a good level of concentration on the same type of task.
Of course, this study should not reflect everyone's relationship to music while learning, but it still provides a good overview of the subject. Adults need more silence while young people perform well even with background noise.