Students have the ability to play music while they are studying. Studies have shown mixed results when it comes to listening to music while studying. This present study examines the differences in music listening habits while studying of students with low and high GPAs. Students with low GPAs did not listen to music more than students with high GPAs while studying. However, when listening to music while reading was examined, there was a difference between low and high GPA students.
Students with low GPAs listened to music more while reading for school than students with high GPAs. Moreover, there was no difference in the music listening habits of students with low and high GPAs when memorizing for tests. How does playing music while studying relate to college students’ GPA? The past century has been deemed the “Information Age” because individuals are able to access and transfer information freely, which was once difficult or impossible to do so. Information can include pictures, videos, psychology research articles, and music.
Therefore music has become widely accessible to all people in modern western society. With the invention of mp3 formatting of songs and high-speed Internet access, people can download music for free directly to their computers in an instant. Recorded music can be played at the touch of a button on a car radio, portable mp3 player, or home stereo. Music has become a part of everyday life; some sort of background music or noise is always present. People listen to music while performing a wide range of activities, which vary in the amount of focus and attention span needed.
Born of the computer and digital age, most young people are naturally skilled at using new technology such as computers, iPads, and televisions. College students, especially, spend a lot of time on the computer doing schoolwork and other non-school related activities. It has been found that most college students have downloaded over 2,000 mp3 songs in their lifetime (Hinduja ; Higgins, 2011). The degree to which music is played while studying depends on the type of studying that the student is doing (Kotsopoulou ; Hallam, 2010).
Kotsopoulou and Hallam found that high school and college students played music in the background most often when thinking is followed by writing and least often when learning a foreign language or memorizing texts. Many studies show that listening to music while studying has beneficial effects on academic task performances including reading comprehension and memory. Mitchell (1949; cited in Kotsopoulou ; Hallam, 2010) tested sixth graders in a pubic elementary school on a reading comprehension test. The experimental condition had music playing in the background and the control condition had no music playing.
The results show that performance on the reading comprehension test was not negatively affected when music was playing. In fact, Hall (1952; cited in Kotsopoulou ; Hallam, 2010) found that reading comprehension performance improved significantly for eighth and ninth graders when there was background music. Music has also been shown to have a positive effect on memory task performance. Marlens, Jungers, and Steele (2011) studied verbal memory in individuals with learning disabilities and individuals without any learning disabilities. Music was found to improve verbal memory in both groups of individuals.
Playing background music has also been found to increase the speed of spatial processing and the accuracy of linguistic processing (Angel, Polzella, ; Elvers, 2010). Reading comprehension, memory, spatial processing, and lingusitic processing are skills that must be mastered for success in school. Studies on the effects of listening to music while studying has shown mixed results on academia. Although much research has proven the benefits of playing music while studying, just as much research has been done to show the adverse effects of music.
Anderson and Fuller (2010) found that reading comprehension performance of junior high school students declined significantly when listening to music. In addition, Fogelson (1973; cited in Etaugh ; Michals, 1975) found that popular music has a negative effect on reading-test performance of eighth graders. Gurung (2005) explored the study techniques of college students and found that listening to music while studying was detrimental to exam scores. Students with low exam scores most frequently listened to music while studying.
Gurung concluded from his study that listening to music was distracting to the learning process. Some important factors must be considered when studying the effects of music while studying. Different types of music have different effects on academic performance. Soothing music has been found to improve performance on memory and mathematics tasks of elementary school students (Hallam, Price, ; Katsarou, 2002). Meanwhile, music that was perceived as aggressive, arousing, and unpleasant disrupted performance on tasks. The information-load of the music being played makes a difference as well.
Kiger (1989) found that 15-year olds who read a passage on Japanese history with low information-load music performed better on reading comprehension tests than those who read the passage in silence or with high information-load music. The low information-load music played was “highly repetitive with a narrow tonal range” and the high information-load music was “rhythmically varied and highly dynamic” (Kiger, 1989, p. 532). Another factor that must be considered is how frequently the student listens to music while studying.
Etaugh and Michals (1975) found that the more frequently college students listened to music while studying, the less music was distracting to them. The researchers concluded that “unfamiliar sounds are more distracting than familiar ones” (Etaugh ; Michals, 1975, p. 554). In order to do well in school, students must develop good study habits. The better study habits a student has, the better grades that he or she will receive. Good study habits include time-management and being able to identify when outside factors are distracting to their studying.
Kotsopoulou and Hallam (2010) have found that students are aware of the effects of playing music while studying and seem to know which tasks will be adversely affected; they become increasingly aware as they grow older. Students’ study habits vary due to different preferences in learning-styles. College freshmen with low GPAs preferred learning challenging material with some sort of sound in the environment like music or conversation (Reese ; Dunn, 2007). On the other hand, freshmen with high GPAs preferred learning alone, usually in silence, or with an authoritative figure.
Learning-style preferences dictate whether music will or will not be played when studying. It has been found that low GPA students prefer sound or music in the environment when learning and high GPA students prefer to study in silence (Reese ; Dunn, 2007). Based on this research, we hypothesize that low GPA students will more frequently listen to music while studying than high GPA students. The present study explores the relationship between college students’ GPA and how frequently music is played while they are studying. The study will test if studying to music playing is connected to lower grades in school. Method
Participants A total of 48 students majoring in Psychology at a university in California were recruited to participate in study about the effects of listening to music while studying. Of the participants, 36 (75%) were female and 12 (25%) were male. Additionally, the participants’ ages ranged from 18- to 32-years old (M=20. 52, SD=2. 48). Of the participants, 26 (54. 2%) identified themselves as White, 2 (4. 2%) identified themselves as African American, 6 (12. 5%) identified themselves as coming from Hispanic origin, 4 (18. 8%) identified themselves as Asian, and 5 (10. 4%) identified themselves as none of the above.
Materials and Procedure Convenience nonprobability sampling method was used to recruit the sample of 48 participants. The participants were given a two-part written survey to complete. The informed consent clearly stated that their participation was voluntary and that information given on the survey would remain confidential. Part one of the survey collected demographic information, including gender, age, and ethnicity. Participants were also asked to indicate their GPA. Part two of the survey asked participants to rate the likelihood of them performing various school-related activities on a scale from 1(never) to 5(always).
The school-related activities that participants were asked to rate on were reviewing for exams, writing for school, editing work previously completed, memorizing for tests, reading for school, doing homework, solving math problems, thinking, studying for their favorite subject, and studying for their least favorite subject. After collecting all the finished surveys, we went through the surveys to see if all parts were completed. Out of 50 surveys collected, two were incomplete because one participant did not answer all the questions and another did not indicate their GPA.
The data from the two incomplete surveys were not thrown out. We assigned each participant to either having low GPA or high GPA. We wanted equal number of participants in each group so we found the median of the entire samples’ GPA, which was 3. 30. Participants with a GPA above 3. 30 were placed in the high GPA group and participants with a GPA below 3. 30 were placed in the low GPA group. This experiment was quasi-experimental because the participants were not randomly assigned into groups, but placed in pre-existing categories according to their GPA.
Then scores from rating scale were averaged. The significance of the study was tested using an independent t-test. Results An independent samples t-test was conducted to explore the relationship between how often students listen to music while studying and GPA. There was not a significant difference in how often students listened to music while studying based on GPA, such that, students’ music habits while studying was not significantly different for students with low GPA (M=3. 14, SD=1. 12) than for students with high GPA (M=2. 64, SD=1. 12); t(46)=1. 55, p. 05, d=0. 027.
In other words, students with low GPAs did listen to music more while reading for school than students with high GPAs (see Figure 2). The last independent samples t-test was ran to explore the relationship between how often students listen to music while memorizing for tests and GPA. There was not a significant difference in how often students listened to music while studying based on GPA, such that, students’ music habits while memorizing for tests was not significantly different for students with low GPA (M=2. 33, SD=1. 58) than for students with high GPA (M=2. 04, SD=1. 33); t(46)=0. 69, p