Does listening to music make difficult tasks easier? That may depend on your personality

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Credit: Hill Street Studios

The fact that music can make a difficult task more tolerable may be why students often choose to listen to it while doing their homework or studying for exams. But is listening to music the smart choice for students who want to optimize their learning?

A new study by Manuel Gonzalez of Baruch College and John Aiello of Rutgers University suggests that for some students, listening to music is indeed a wise strategy, but for others, it is not. The effect of music on cognitive functioning appears not to be “one-size-fits-all” but to instead depend, in part, on your personality.

Students who are easily bored and who seek out stimulation should be wary of adding music to the mix, especially complex music that may capture attention and consume critical cognitive resources that are needed for successful task completion. On the other hand, students with a low need for stimulation may benefit significantly from the presence of music.

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Related article:  Computer modeled on biological brains could 'jump-start' new era in AI research

With the right (low-need-for-stimulation) personality, the right (instrumental) music and the right (low-to-moderately-difficult) task, the presence of music may significantly improve cognitive functioning. Given the many other physical, emotional and psychological benefits of music, that subscription to Spotify just might pay for itself!

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