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How music helps teens in daily life and education

Updated on September 19, 2016
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For thousands of years people have been making and listening to music. What is the reason behind it; no one ever really questions why we listen to music. Of course it is pleasing to listen to some tunes of choice when biking, running, or even studying. Music makes us feel a certain way when we listen to it, depending on the music it can even affect our mood or personality. Is there any science behind this? Does this work the same for everyone? What music would you have to listen to if you wanted to be productive, and enhance your performance? These are only some questions I will answer.

Research on how music affects the brain was first done in 1988, by Gordon Shaw. Results of a separate study showed that the nerves in the brain follow certain patterns and rhythms when sending “orders” to the rest of the body. It was found that many of these rhythms sounded like the music that we listen to. From this, for further inquiry, Shaw suggested reversing the study and researching into how music can affect the brain [The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look, Dr. Thomas Anderson].

One thing that music does and not many people know, it helps your brain age well. This means that the mental health of a person will be kept better, if one is passionate about music. When listening to music, the nucleus accumbens in the brain releases a natural drug called Dopamine. Dopamine is released once someone experiences pleasure and it causes the feeling of a “reward”. When you discover a song that you are really passionate about and get a nice feeling, there is a lot of dopamine being released Music can keep the brain naturally releasing dopamine meaning that it will function for longer. Constant lack of dopamine release, can lead to mental illnesses like Parkinson’s. Music (dopamine) could technically be called a drug, since marijuana consumption also leads to releases dopamine into the brain causing the “feel-good effect". [How music really affect the brain, ADD staff]


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Many genres of music have different effects on the brain; it can even affect the mood of a person.

“The effect of music on the brain or depends on it’s genre” – Frank A. Russo (informed to Yahoo health)

"Although pursuing personal happiness may be thought of as a self-centered venture, research suggests that happiness relates to a higher probability of socially beneficial behavior, better physical health, higher income, and greater relationship satisfaction.” – Yuna Ferguson

You might have noticed while listening to your daily playlist, that sometimes when a deep/emotional song comes on it gives you memories. According to a study done by Yuna Ferguson, people were requested to elevate their mood. This was only achieved once they listened to music by Copland (more fast paced beats, overall not to many deep tunes) [How music affects our moods, Suzanne Boothby]. Once they listened to music by Stravinsky, they were having trouble staying positive. Although the “happy music” helped for people to elevate their mood, it was also found that if they were not trying to be happy, the “happy music” would not naturally make them feel happier. Ferguson’s study was recorded in a book/journal called: The Journal of Positive Psychology.

“Studies demonstrate that listening to positive music may be an effective way to improve happiness, particularly when it is combined with an intention to become happier.” – Yuna Ferguson in “The Journal Of Positive Psychology”

This suggests that a person really needs to motivate themselves in order to become happier in their mind. The music is only something that would make it easier to achieve, considering it would be the release of dopamine that would help achieve a happier mindset [How music affects our moods, Suzanne Boothby]

People who were going through a difficult or emotional time in their lives, however preferred listening to music that reflected their worst mood. There was also another study conducted, about how the personality of people that listen to a certain genre of music, are affected by it. This could also be inversed by saying people with certain characteristics choose a genre to listen to. Here are some examples of what type of people listen to what type of music:

Rap/Hip-Hop: people who listen to hip-hop often have high self esteem and are outgoing, despite the stereotype that they are aggressive or ignorant.

Classical: People who are passionate about classical music are often very introvert, although they are at ease with their surroundings and are very creative. They often have a good self esteem. [Music Improves Brain Function, Phillip Schewe].

According to Adrian North from the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, people’s personality/characteristics often reflects in their music taste. Although there is a link between personality of people and the music they listen to, it has not been proved that music can change your personality permanently [Music Improves Brain Function, Phillip Schewe]. So maybe if you are trying to change your behavior or mindset, think about the music you listen to.

Now does music really affect the performance of a person? To form an answer to this question, we can look at a study done by Laurel Trainor; the director of “Music and the Mind” at the University of West Hamilton. She observed children who had music lessons and the ones who didn’t. The outcome showed that the children who followed music lessons had larger brain response on tests where certain sounds had to be recognized. Trainor also states that children with two years of music lessons can have a longer attention span and a better memory [Music Improves Brain Function, Phillip Schewe].

“We therefore hypothesize that musical training (but not necessarily passive listening to music) affects attention and, which provides a mechanism whereby musical training might lead to better learning across a number of domains." – Laurel Trainor

“Musical training” as she calls it, can affect the auditory cortex in the brain. However this counts for music training/classes, not necessarily listening to music through headphones on your bike or when you’re studying. A study by Antoine Shahin shows that musical training can make a child have an acoustic responsiveness of someone 2 – 3 years older. He also found that music training does not necessarily lead to enhanced IQ or creativity [Music Improves Brain Function, Phillip Schewe]. When a person listens to same meaningful/harmonic sound over and over again, a few neurons get reinforced in responding to those sounds. This also gives another reason for primary schools (possibly also secondary schools) to provide musical lessons, considering it can boost the improvement of the students. Even if Laurel Trainor states that music does not necessarily affect performance, there is proof of it in the form of “The Mozart Effect”.

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The Mozart Effect

The Mozart effect is the change in performance when one listens to the pieces of one of the greatest composers: Wolfgang Mozart. His particular choice in melodies and combination of instruments has proved to change the performance of people when doing casual activities.

Gordon Shaw, Frances Rauscher and Katherine Ky created a study that resulted in “the Mozart effect”, done in 1993. 36 students highly educated students were assembled into 3 different groups, that were all given the exact same IQ test. One group was exposed to a piece composed by Mozart (Sonata in D major), one group was exposed to something these scientists label as a “relaxation tape” and one group was exposed to complete silence. Surprisingly, the group that was exposed to the composition by Mozart had a 9 point increase in the IQ of the students, compared to the rest of the groups [The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look, Dr. Thomas Anderson]. However this study definitely proves that music can really change the intelligence performance, the increase of IQ was only transitory, and lasted about the time that they were exposed to the composition. In 1995, the same test was reproduced with conducted by the same researchers, with 79 students. These studies raised gained much attention from many researchers. In 1995, Newman, Rosenbach, Burns, Latimer, Matocha, and Vogt, researchers at State University of New York conducted the same test, finding no correlation between listening to Mozart and a raise in IQ [The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look, Dr. Thomas Anderson]. However they did find that if a student listens to relaxing music of their preference, it did improve many of the student’s results. So here there is a debate whether it is really the type of music that improves performance, or someone’s preference. Music does improve the focus for many people which betters many results.

From many of these different studies, I can conclude that the incorporation of music while doing a task can improve the end result. Whether it is because it improves focus, or certain tunes are actually making the brain work better. It really depends on the person and what works best for the individual. However the skill of making music and the skill of being able to follow musical rhythmic patterns can greatly help an individual in studying or working on a test. If music were to be allowed on during tests, it would have to be non distracting and at normal volume, which certainly would help many students perform better, whether it improves concentration, or the Mozart effect takes place.

Works cited

Staff, ADD. "All Def Digita Music- How Music Really Affects Your Brain." All Def Music - Timeline | Facebook. ADD, 15 July 2016. Web. 15 Sept. 2016. <https://www.facebook.com/1694291234120167/videos/1758999134316043/>.

Cherry, Kendra. "What Does Your Taste In Music Reveal About Your Personality?" Verywell. Kendra Cherry, n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016. <http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/music-and-personality.htm>. [What Does Your Taste In Music Reveal About Your Personality?, Kendra Cherry]

"The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look." The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look. Dr. Thomas Anderson, n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016. <http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/lerch1/edpsy/mozart_effect.html>. [The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look, Dr. Thomas Anderson]

Schewe, Phillip. "Music Improves Brain Function." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016. <http://www.livescience.com/7950-music-improves-brain-function.html>. [Music Improves Brain Function, Phillip Schewe]

Boothby, Suzanne. "How Music Affects Our Moods." Healthlines RSS News. August 3, 2016, 03 Aug. 2016. Web. 15 Sept. 2016. <http://www.healthline.com/health-news/mental-listening-to-music-lifts-or-reinforces-mood-051713>. [How music affects our moods, Suzanne Boothby]


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