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Turn Down the Volume?


A new study has examined the question of whether our concentration and memory are improved or hindered when we listen to music, and whether this can depend on our personality type and even the music we are listening to.

By Matthew Flavel

Does music help or hinder our concentration and memory?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Have you ever turned down the radio while trying to find a car park or when you are lost? Why would you need to reduce the work your ears are doing for a job seemingly just for your eyes? A recent study published in The Gerontologist ( has a sound explanation for why you turned the radio off.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology challenged both young and old participants to remember face and name combinations while either listening to background music or complete silence. Interestingly, while all participants from the music-listening group agreed that the music was distracting, only the performance of older participants was reduced.

Perhaps the background music chosen by the researchers unfairly targeted the older demographic by mainly including dated instrumental renditions from Eric Clapton, Jefferson Airplane and Rush. Nevertheless, this study challenges the long-held belief that listening to music can improve concentration.

Study leader Sarah Reaves of the Georgia Institute of Technology believes that her group’s findings should inform choices for people as they get older. “Older adults who struggle to concentrate while meeting with co-workers at a coffee shop, for example, should schedule meetings in quieter locations,” Reaves suggests.

The explanation for this phenomenon is simply that music adds...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.