Does Music Really Help?

Examples of Music that we used in our lab

 

Quicklinks

Abstract

Introduction

Background Information

Specific Research Design

Materials and Methods

Results

Discussion and Conclusion

Literature Cited

Abstract

In our experiment we saw the effects of different types of music, specifically rock, rap, country, classical, pop and a control of no music on peopleís ability to comprehend materials. We either asked them math questions or asked them simple questions on a given article. Our hypothesis was that classical music would have the highest level of comprehension and accuracy. The importance of this experiment helped us to determine which type of music helps comprehension, then we, as college students, can utilize this in our studying and reading habits regularly. We found that there was no significance between genres according to the Scheffes test, yet there was significance overall. Our conclusion states that we accept the null hypothesis but there is error that was present through the experiment and our data shows some significance in favor of our alternative hypothesis but not drastic enough to fail Scheffes test.


Introduction


The purpose of this lab was to study the effects of listening to five different genres of music; country, pop rock, rap, hard rock, and classical and determine their effect on reading comprehension and math skills. Through these studies, it was possible to determine which genre of music is most conducive to learning. A random sampling of students was chosen from the Western College Program, who live in Peabody and Mary Lyon Halls. They were then given a selected article to read while listening to a certain genre of music. Upon completion of the reading and the math sample the student was then asked to answer a series of two to three questions based upon the given works. The null hypothesis states that there will be no difference in times between the certain genres of music. Our alternative hypothesis was that the students who listened to the classical music while reading/looking at the selection would show the most thorough and accurate responses to the work with the quickest reading time rather than those students who listened to the other four genres and the control of no music. The research question that we proposed was, how do these different genres of music enhance or distract the reader's ability to memorize and comprehend a given piece of work or article. This study was interesting to us as researchers personally because we hoped to gain knowledge of how the surrounding environment affects learning ability especially in terms of music. There is often background noise when one is reading or studying, but how does the effect of music, an easily recognizable sound, affect the way our brains work? Upon learning the results from this study we can also apply this knowledge into our own lives in the way we study. With college students time tends to be very rare and finding the best use of time and the most effective way to study would be beneficial to most of the community here on Western Campus.

The music we participants listen to included:

Enya:

Classical: Piano Minuete by Bach

Country: Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks

Rap: Air Force Ones by Nelly

Hard Rock: Fuel by Metallica

PopRock: Rock your body by Justin Timberlake

Background Information

Does music really help students in an educational setting? This was the question we were posing for our experiment. There has been considerable interest into how background sounds may influence an individuals performance on various cognitive and work tasks. (Furnham and Strbac, Music is as distracting as noise: the differential distraction of background music and noise on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts) A lot of research has been done that is similar to our study. For instance, getting involved musically seems to better any educational experience. This would include playing a musical instrument. A study by Gardiner and his colleagues in two elementary schools demonstrated that first-graders who received an extra hour per week of music and visual arts training in the classroom showed improved reading skills and were significantly ahead in math skills compared to other students of the same age. (Allegrezza, Mozart, Music, and the Mind). There are many studies that demonstrate that playing a musical instrument will help with raising test scores in such classes.
Another way that music has helped in the educational setting is by using the music to evoke emotions of the students. Using popular music, teachers help guide students to evaluate emotions and to draw parallels with literature, and to introduce and explore less familiar musical

genres and artists. (Robert McParland, Music to their Ears) Teachers are beginning to use this method more and more as they realize the true positive effect music has on learning capabilities.Deep learning has been one of the most influential constructs to emerge in literature on effective learning in education. (Boyle, Duffy and Dunleavy, Learning Styles and academic outcome: The validity and utility of Vermuntís Inventory of Learning Styles in a British higher education setting)
One of the reasons music has proven to be a useful asset is children can easily identify with music. We're brought up on it. Children can relate to the media and music since most of the students tend to listen to music, watch tv, and sing songs. Music can help in aiding literature reading, writing and memorizing techniques and phrases. These are all common techniques in reading comprehension (Truit and Williams, Music and Reading Comprehension in the Primary Grade) This relates to our study because we were using background music to see whether it wouldimprove a reading time and concentration factor since adults, since childhood, were already used to having music around them daily. While most of the studies our group found were directed at grade-school children, it is necessary to understand that techniques will still apply for college level students as well. Music may be effective not only at hiding or covering up some of these distractions, but also as a tool for enhancing the learning process. (Levy, The Effects of Background Music on Learning: A Review of Recent Literature)
When taking tests, your brain works in a specific way. It is commonly thought you are using short-term memory when reading an article so that you can answer questions at the end of your reading and keep going on with whatever test youíre taking without becoming overloaded with information. This may not be the case after-all, exceptional memory performance is not a short-term memory phenomenon, but is based on rapid storage in long-term memory (LTM). (Anders and Polson, An Experimental Analysis of the Mechanisms of a Memory Skill). It is important in our experiment to realize that what we were testing was the capability of the mind and how effectively information was being stored and used correctly. Music improves spatial-temporal reasoning, a neurological process needed to understand mathematics.(http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/Arts/music/Development/musicleraning.htm) This means that according to this article, music can help students when doing math problems, something we hoped to prove or disprove without experiment. The brain in a complex organism though, both the working memory and long-term memory share one substrate: a system of broad, partly overlapping and interconnected neocortical networks. (Vollmer and Sommer, Coexistence of short and long term memory in a model network of realistic neurons). The mind is extremely complex and some believe the music will help to stimulate the brain in a way to allow for a quicker process with learning and comprehending certain educational materials. Neurobiologists pinpointed the areas responsible for math and music abilities close together in the brainís cortex. Development in this area, the researchers claimed, helps with complex functions like math or logic. (Allegrezza, Mozart, Music, and the Mind) This may mean that whatever effect music has on musical abilities may be correlated to mathematic capabilities as well. Considering the fact we were testing math skills, and understanding that memory for visual and verbal material is focused in different hemispheres of the brain, (Doty and Savakis, Commonality of processes underlying visual and verbal recognition memory) could be useful information. A process may be slower or quicker when involving background music. So, why does this matter? If the brain and the way you memorize certain material is so complex, having an aid to help or inhibit the process, such as music, can lead to a drastic change in test scores.
There are many different view points on whether background music can be beneficial to a student. Does hearing anything really help one concentrate more on a given article or set of math problems? Miller reported that the hearing students performed significantly higher than both deaf groups in a measure of reading proficiency. (Moors, Short Term Memory, morphology, and Reading) According to these finding, those of us who can hear sounds at all performed better than deaf students do on these given tests. Our research takes this a step further to see what kinds of sound are most beneficial for those who can hear. Another controversy seems to be the type of music involved. Common sense tells us, the research has confirmed, that loud, cacophonous background noise impedes learning, concentration, and information acquisition. However, some amount of background music may in fact be helpful in the learning process, both in a structure school setting and under self-directed homework conditions. (Levy, The Effects of Background Music on Learning: A Review of Recent Literature). The type of background music, if any, is where the controversy begins. Most believe that classical music is the most beneficial. Listening to Mozart (compared to relaxation instructions or silence) produced a brief but significant increase in performance of a spatial IQ task.(Http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/arts/music/Development/mozart.htm).
In another experiment, The observations made by Davidson and Powell (19xx) indicate, as they humbly note, that the use of easy-listening background music was effective in increasing on-task-performance of children in an elementary science classroom. . . and may be generalizable to other subjects in the middle grades.(Levy, The Effects of Background Music on Learning: A Review of Recent Literature) it is clear that they believe that a complete genre of music may not be responsible but the sort of style that is present.
There is also data going against music being involved in the educational process what-so-ever. McFarland and Kennison (1987) assume through their studies that the right hemisphere of the brain processes music. They found that participants require greater effort to successfully learn a task with the presence of music. Therefore, according to their study, music does more harm than good when studying. McFarland and Hanna (1990) found that music inhibited initial learning in a tactual-spatial task. Again showing that music while studying is more damaging than helpful on test performance. While this study is one of many, the idea that certain types of music are more damaging than others remains. Fast music, regardless of its appeal, has a negative impact on attention paid to and information acquired from the educational segment. Interestingly, different types of music seem to have no significant effect to the appeal to the children, or their reported interest in the given material. Fast, appealing music, included that the tune appealed to children so much that they tried learning it while the segment was continuing. (Levy, The Effects of Background Music on Learning: A Review of Recent Literature) Testing the effect of music from an academic standpoint is not the only research that is being done. Music introduced into the work area has been proven to increase output therefore does not inhibit learning, but helps someone to focus and repeat tasks. (Parncutt and McPherson, The Science and Psychological of Music Performance: Creative Strategies for Teaching and Learning) Researchers have been interested in the possible benefits of music at work. They believe it to have affected the morale and productivity at work. (Furnham and Bradley, Music While you work: The differential distraction of Background Music on the Cognitive Test Performance of Introverts and Extraverts.)
There was very little support for the other genres that we were presenting in our design and it would be interesting to see how they affected the students comprehension and mathematical abilities. Existing research seems to support the hypothesis that certain types of instrumental music, especially slow - to medium-paced, non-percussive music, is beneficial in several learning situations. The traditional notion that people, especially young students, concentrate and learn best in a completely quiet environment is being challenged.(Levy, The Effects of Background Music on Learning: A Review of Recent Literature). Along with this challenge come many opinions. Listening to music as background can help when people when theyíre thinking, learning, or working, but the music needs to be implemented correctly. It can be easily understood that if it's vocal music, it needs to be somewhat quiet, for if it isn't, it can be distracting to the mind. It is logical to conclude then that if it's instrumental, it can be somewhat louder than vocal music, but not too loud because any music that is loud enough will make it hard to learn or think. As we observed, the listeners preference to music must also be taken into account, because the primary goal is for the music to affect the personís mood and attitude positively, and if they are listening to music that they absolutely deplore, it wonít help them think because it will be hard to shut it out of their mind.(Http://www.bobjanuary.com/musicmnd.htm) In the end there hasn't really been any final research that helps prove or disprove any theory of one specific genre of music being better than another.
Specific Research Design
For out experiment we sampled the Western Students. On western campus there are approximately 250 students. In order to take a sampling of them, we planned to go door to door in the dorms to collect a sampling of 153 student. The 153 individuals who volunteer for this experiment would be chosen by each group member. Each student can only be tested once to avoid possible errors.
For our in class experiment, we took the same steps in questioning them and used the class as feedback for our experiment. Our subjects were given one piece of music to listen to or be used as the control group (no music) while reading an article. They would then answerthree questions on the information they absorbed. We started a stopwatch when they began reading in order to time how long it took them to read and comprehend the article. We also had students answering math questions as an experiment to see whether these types of music would affect mathematical capabilities.
The pieces of music they will listen to are "Rock your Body " by Justin Timberlake to satisfy our Pop rock genre, "Piano Minuet" by Bach to satisfy our Classical genre, "Air Force Ones" by Nelly to satisfy our rap genre, "Fuel" by Metallica to satisfy our hard rock genre and "Thunder Rolls"by Garth Brooks to satisfy our country music genre. We made sure that the volume level remained the same for each subject so volume is not a changing variable. The article they were asked to read is entitled "Dolphin Facts and Interesting Information" and they will each be asked to answer the same three basic recall questions based on the facts the article provides. The mathematic questions would be simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.
We repeated this process with each person we studied. With the controlled group however, there was no music playing in their headphones when the article was read or problems were being completed. For all cases, only precisely accurate answers would be accepted as correct. Thishelped us to gain insight into how long it took them to process the information given, give a correct answer, and how long they could retain it while their performance was either helped or hindered by the playing of music.

Materials and Methods

Our experiment was to test the correlation between the type of music played while reading and the comprehension of the reading. Were using the same five musical samples and the same reading materials on all of the subjects tested. The experiment reflected accurately the relationship between these two variables, however they may be not accurate because of personal differences of the subjects being tested. We chose five different genres of music so that we could show how certain types of music are more compatible with learning than others. Our experiment was statistically sound in the fact that were exploring the relationship among a population of music genres, reading speed and comprehension. We looked at other studies done on the topic to come up with our own ideas as well as found several literary pieces that support that there is statistical evidence to be found in the relationship. a. We ensured unbiased results by measuring all subjects on the same variables and over the same material. Were conducting our experiment on Western students and the results showed an unbiased result as it applies to the chosen population. b. The data collected can be trusted because we measured all of the reading times and comprehension uniformly so that there was no chance for change. All conditions presented by our group have been consistent during our data collection. However, there were other factors that played into effect such as tiredness, stress, hunger or business that may have affected the performance of the subject. The materials we used were articles for reading as well as five different songs to listen to during the reading. We also used a set of questions for measuring the comprehension of reading. A timer or stopwatch was used for precisely measuring the amount of time it tookeach subject to read the passage. During our class time we conducted our study on our classmates. We had them read the selected passages while listening to various music selections and collect the data. We kept this data separate from our other data as the conditions are not static.

RESOURCES:

Mathematic Questions

Article

Article Questions

Data Sheet


Timeline

Week 1 (Oct. 20): Finish working out the kinks in our experimental design

Week 2-3: Begin data collection

Week 4-5: Analyze data

Week 6: Present to class

Week 7: Final lab report

Results

Figure 1: Graph of Rough Time Data for Music and Familiarity

Figure 2: Graph of Number Wrong Data for Music and Familiarity

Figure 3: Graph of Final Time Data for Music and Familiarity

Figure 4: Scheffe's test for Rough Time

Figure 5: Scheffe's test for Number Wrong

Figure 6: Scheffe's test for Final Time

Figure 7: Graph of Music vs. Test Type for Rough Time

Figure 8: Graph of Music vs.Test Type for Number Wrong data

Figure 9: Graph of Music vs. Test Type for Final Time

 

 

 

This graph shows Rough Time Data for Music and Familiarity. Overall there is a p-value of .1217. Which is not significant at an alpha level of .05.

This graph shows Number Wrong Data for Music and Familiarity. Overall there is a p-value of .0039. Which is significant at an alpha level of .05.

This graph shows Final Time Data for Music and Familiarity. Overall there is a p-value of .1537. Which is not significant at an alpha level of .05.

This data represents the Scheffe's test for Rough Time data. This is a very conservative test and there is a p-value overall of .0109 which is significant. But, no significance exists between individual genres.

This data represents the Scheffe's test for Number Wrong data. This is a very conservative test and there is a p-value overall of .0032 which is significant. But, no significance exists between individual genres.

This data represents the Scheffe's test for Final Time data. This is a very conservative test and there is a p-value overall of .0130 which is significant. But, no significance exists between individual genres.

This graph represents the music vs. test type for Rough Time data. The p-value of .0001 is significant at the alpha level of .05.

This graph represents the music vs. test type for Number Wrong data. The p-value of .0024 is significant at the alpha level of .05.

This graph represents the music vs. test type for Final Time data. The p-value of .0001 is significant at the alpha level of .05.

 

Discussion and Conclusions

Our Results proved our alternative hypothesis was incorrect. Using the Scheffe’s test it showed that there was no statistical significance proving that one genre of music enhanced the listening in comparison to the other genres. Therefore, our data does not prove classical music is better than the other genres. Which is what our alternative hypothesis stated. However, there is a significance overall. The Null hypothesis proposed that there was no significance between the music data, no matter what the genre type was. We accepted the null hypothesis based on Scheffe's test, but due to the fact that this test is extremely conservative, we are hestitant that this conclusion is completely accurate. The reason we state this is because the graphs and other data show signifance in other ways. An example would be country music in number wrong data, this graph shows that the number of questions that individuals answered wrong is significantly higher than those answered wrong in other genres of music.
We looked at each part of our experimental data critically in efforts to calculate a conclusion, but there are many factors that may have effected or skewed our results. Some error that was evident in our experiment includes but is not limited to the fact that some of our subjects may have been more distracted than others. this means even this slight variance in their dedication to the material may have affected our data. Another factor may have been the subjects previous knowledge of the material read, and their reading and math skills. Some students are just faster readers or better at math, and the type of music does not have as much of a powerful effect. This ability may have increased or decreased, not only their raw time, but also their number right or wrong and over all time. Another factor that could have hurt our overall results would be the difference in what the students listen to nowadays. As a generation this group of students could be used to listening to pop rock, hard-rock, and rap. The white noise just might distract them because they're not used to studying in this sort of an environment. This could explain why the genres are so similar according to Scheffes test. Our study is extremely imporant in the overall scheme of things. The fact that there is significance overall between genres means that the type of music that one listens to while studying DOES matter. The type of music can help you or hurt you to get certain tasks completed. According to the other studies that we found, classical music generally is the genre of music that helps you to work more efficiently. Our data does not help prove these other studies conclusions, but more importantly it does not disprove their theories. We believe if we were to have tested more students than our study would have been more significant and helpful in the overall big picture.

Literature Cited

Allegrezza, Cynthia M.. Mozart, Music, and the Mind. Todayís Parent of Massachusetts: Johnson String Instrument. September 1999.

Anders and Polson. An Experimental Analysis of the Mechanisms of a Memory Skill. University of Colorado. Downloaded from web

10/8/03.

Boyle, Elizabeth A and Tim Duffy and Karen Dunleavy. Learning Styles and academic outcome: The validity and utility of Vermuntís

Inventory of Learning Styles in a British higher education setting. University of Paisley, UK. Downloaded 10/7/03.

Doty and Savakis, Commonality of processes underlying visual and verbal recognition memory. University of Rochester Medical Center,

Rochester NY. Accepted 14 January 1997.

Furnham Adrian and Bradley Anna. Music While you work: The differential distraction of Background Music on the Cognitive Test

Performance of Introverts and Extraverts. Downloaded 10/9/03.

Furnham Adrian and Strbac Lisa. Music is as distracting as noise: the differential distraction of background music and noise on cognitive test

performance of introverts and extraverts. Ergonomics, Volume 45 No 3, 203-217. 2002.

Levy, Yiftach. The Effects of Background Music on Learning: A Review of Recent Literature. Department of Educational Technology, San

Diego State University. Downloaded from web 10/6/03.

McParland, Robert. Music to their Ears. April 2000. Downloaded 9/15/03.

Moors, Donald F. Short Term Memory, Morphology, and Reading. American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 148, No 1, 2003. Found on

Web 10/8/03.

Parncutt, Richard and McPherson Gary E. The Science and Psychological of Music Performance: Creative Strategies for Teaching and

Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Xii+ 388 pp. 2002.

Truit and Williams, Music and Reading Comprehension in the Primary Grade. 20 February 2003.

Vollmer and Sommer, Coexistence of short and long term memory in a model network of realistic neurons. Department of Neural Information

Processing. University of Ulm Germany. Elsevier Science B.V.:2001.

Web Sites

Does listening to Mozart Affect Spatial IQ. Found online

"http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/Arts/music/Development/Mozart.htm". Downloaded 10/8/03.

Manthei, Mike and Kelly, Steve N. Effects of Popular and Classical Background Music on the Math Test Scores of Undergraduate

Students. Minneapolis MN, Found Online:"http://music.arts.usf.edu/rpme/effects.htm." Downloaded 10/9/03.

Music and Learning. Found online: www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/Arts/music/Development/musicleraning.htm. Downloaded 10/8/03

Olson, Kristian David. The Effects of Music on the mind. Found online:"Http://www.bobjanuary.com/musicmnd.htm".Downloaded 10/8/03.

St. Clair, Angela M. The Effects of Music during apprehension on memory performance. Found online:

"http://clearinghouse.mwsc.edu/manuscripts/187.asp?logon=&code=". Downloaded 10/8/03.