CFA CFA General Does Listening to Music Impair Our Ability to Learn?

Does Listening to Music Impair Our Ability to Learn?

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    • Sarah
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      The quick answer – no. But don’t despair there are caveats.

      Listening to music while studying is relatively new. Not so long ago it was impossible to carry music with you and study in the library meant studying in silence. Now with the explosion of portable music devices, music is everywhere. And how else can I show off my my beats when I have exiled myself to studying for the CFA exam… Jokes aside we really shouldn’t be listening to music all the time.

      5 Reasons To Unplug Our Music

      1. We are terrible at multitasking. Listening to music slows us down because technically we are multitasking. Music and books! We are reducing our efficiency. The economist in us would disapprove.
      2. Our brain likes to focus on patterns. Listening to music – which is a complex pattern of tones shifts our attention.
      3. Our memory is liked to our senses. The strong scent of coffee might remind us of chatting with friends at a cafe, the scent of popcorn of our recent trip to the theater. Our auditory system works the same – a particular sound can cause memories to bubble to the surface. If you memorized a certain formula with music playing in the background you might not be able to recall it on exam day due to the lack of external stimuli. The background music might become the trigger needed to recall that particular information.
      4. Actually memorizing something with music is the background reduces our recall significantly. Memorizing requires full and undivided attention to have something beseeching for your attention isn’t ideal circumstances.
      5. Listening to lyrical music while reading or writing is also problematic. The same part of our brain is trying to process two different streams of information.

      The Caveats

      1. Listening to instrumental is recommended
      2. Listening to music we like can increase our attention span and helps when reviewing for a test.
      3. Soft slow paced music is recommended. Music can alter our mood so we don’t want something we’ll start dancing to or agitate us.
      4. Listen to music you are very familiar with, new music distracts.

      We can listen to music while studying. I’m sure this comes to a relief to some of us. Music can be utilized to increase our efficacy when studying. However only in certain circumstances and never when memorizing.

      Silence is golden, until next time.

    • Gary
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      I learnt the hard way of the perils of learning while listening to music, During my GCSE (UK high school exams) i decided studying in silence was to boring so turned on the radio. It gave me a small boost in focus or so i thought.

      During one of my final Spanish exams while trying to recall some of the vocabulary i learnt on that faithful study session my brain came back with the tune to LL Cool J’s Phenomenon (This was not a current song at the time, but an earworm non the less) nonstop for the final hour of the exam.

      Since then i have learnt my lesson and will only listen to classical music or some smooth Jazz. I dread to think what rubbish might come on the radio now days which might decide to burrow into my brain. (If i fail I blame Beiber)

    • Sophie Macon
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      Oh no @Gary, some painful lessons there. I’m on the opposite end, normally requiring a strict silence library-style, only since I embarked on the CFA that I learnt how to cope with cafe background noises and I love smooth jazz now!

    • Zee Tan
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      (If i fail I blame Beiber)

      Quote of the day!

    • hairyfairy
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      I was convinced for the longest time that music (with vocals) helped me. I finally faced facts recently – sung music is distracting, and you need instrumental or foreign language music for it to be effective for study.

    • lulu123
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      @diya

      the dancing part was my contribution to this study! 😀 haha
      “Soft slow paced music is recommend. Music can alter our mood so we don’t want something we’ll start dancing to or agitate us.”

    • Sophie Macon
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      I think @diya has finally said the truth about multitasking. We are terrible at it and god knows why we were told it was a good thing?!

    • Sarah
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      I think @diya has finally said the truth about multitasking. We are terrible at it and god knows why we were told it was a good thing?!

      Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses. – Plato

      Nobody will believe us when we tell them that humans are terrible at multi-tasking. Why it would require us to rethink corporate culture from the ground up.

    • Zee Tan
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      They tell juniors they need to do everything, so you need to be good at multitasking. Then you grow senior, slow, deaf and generally crap at everything so they teach you to focus on one thing at a time.

    • Sarah
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      @Zee I can’t tell if you are being serious or satirical.

    • Zee Tan
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      I can’t either @diya.. I do believe that’s true to an extent! 😀

    • Sarah
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      @Zee I disagree with That. But I shall formulate my thesis when the sun comes out.

    • Sarah
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      So the sun has been out for a while therefore I have been negligent but in my defence I was busy!

      …junior staff need to leave the impression that they are “working hard and diligently” maybe even that they are “swamped with work”. The best way to do this is to try to multi-task because it gives you a feeling of being frantic and a person “observing” would think that you are an important person. It is simply a symptom of “motion being confused with action”. A story Dan Ariely shares in his book is of a locksmith, when the locksmith first started out he wasn’t very good and sometimes he’d have to cut the lock open since he couldn’t figure out how to open it. His customers would praise him and give him a tip (after he broke their lock!). As he progressed he gained experience and inadvertently became a much better locksmith he could open the lock quickly and rarely had to cut it. His customers would haggle with him about the price and rarely tip. How very illogical…

      Also I don’t think old age makes us “crap at everything” sure we slow down and might suffer from deafness. That is time reminding us of our mortality but shouldn’t we be smarter? As a child I could never understand the notion of “elderly being an at risk group”. In my mind they should be the hardest to con because they have accumulated so much experience! But this is a result of doing rigorous exercising till you are approximately 22 years old and then sitting the rest of your life on a sofa. After we graduate we rarely “exercise” our cognitive ability and therefore suffer the consequences….

    • Sophie Macon
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      I think you achieved omnipresence @diya. Sleep more!

    • Sarah
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      @Sophie I will when I crash and burn and then you won’t hear from me for a week or so….right now I am far too wired to sleep.

    • jzpriest
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      I always find myself lip singing or humming and completely stop reading whatever thats in front of me. I just cant multitask with reading and listening to music, but i think we can do it while doing other simple stuff like driving.

    • Sophie Macon
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      Hi @jzpriest, welcome to the forum! Not being able to multitask is a good thing 🙂

    • Dan
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      Bad at multitasking? tell that to korean Starcraft players… 😀

    • Sophie Macon
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      Well they don’t sleep @Dan. Doing multiple tasks over long period of time isn’t the same as doing a lot of things at the same time?

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