Whether in the library or at the office, it’s not uncommon to see people working with headphones on. After all, listening to music is said to boost concentration and productivity.
Indeed, nearly a quarter of working people and students in the United Kingdom say music helps them get into “work mode”, according to a recent Canon/OnePoll survey. Many believe they are more motivated to work harder while listening to music, which helps them perform better (40%).
Generally, people are convinced that music provides many benefits: 17% of those polled say listening to music helps them be more creative, while 40% claim it helps them pass the time. Another 35% of respondents say music makes revision or work sessions more fun.
So it’s hardly surprising that some people can’t work or study any other way: over 15% of UK adults say they would find it difficult to carry out certain work or study tasks at home without music playing in the background.
Fortunately for them, there is an endless supply of playlists on the internet designed to promote concentration and efficiency. But proponents of working with music seem to have their own favourite tracks for maximising intellectual capacity. That’s why 11% of those surveyed have created their own musical selections to help them focus on what they need to do.
Whither the ‘Mozart effect’?
But does music really make people work better? Nothing is less certain.
Many followers of this practice rely on what is commonly known as the “Mozart effect”, a concept theorised in the 1990s following the publication of a study in the journal Nature that claimed the compositions of the Austrian classical music genius were conducive to learning.
Decades later, however, researchers at the University of Vienna’s Faculty of Psychology came to the conclusion that there is no scientific proof of the Mozart effect, after studying around 3,000 cases compiled in some 40 research studies.
Working to music is, therefore, more a question of personality than productivity. But if you feel the need, it’s a good idea to listen to songs that are unfamiliar tunes, or slower, less rhythmic songs.
Listening to music you like triggers a secretion of dopamine in the brain, which helps create a feeling of pleasure and serenity. But it also encourages a loss of concentration, which produces the opposite of the desired effect.