Does Music help you Concentrate?

The right music can hit the sweet spot between predictable and chaotic for which the brain has a strong preference.’ Illustration: Sophie Wolfson

 

Music is wonderful.  It can make us feel almost any emotion.  It can make us dance, make us cry, and it can even help us stay focused, but what is it about music that keeps us focused on everyday tasks, like driving, reading, or writing?

As a new article on theguardian.com by Dean Burnett explains, the brain has two attention systems: a conscious, and unconscious one.  The conscious attention system focuses on our current task, such as writing an article, while the unconscious system, “shifts attention towards anything our senses pick up that might be significant,” like the sudden, sharp ring of a fork being dropped onto a plate in the other room.

When we listen to music, we block out sounds or distractions that the unconscious attention system might otherwise pick up.  Some companies have tried to use this to their advantage, playing music over speaker systems to keep their employees focused on their tasks.  Burnett explains that results have been mixed.  It seems that the type of music plays a major role in focus increasing effectiveness.

“Some studies suggest that it really is down to personal preference. Music you like increases focus, while music you don’t impedes it…Music also has a big impact on mood – truly bleak music could sap your enthusiasm for your task. Something else to look out for is music with catchy lyrics. Musical pieces without words might be better working companions, as human speech and vocalization is something our brains pay particular attention to.”

Finally, Burnett notes that some of the best music for keeping focus has breen credited to video game soundtrack music.  “This makes sense, when you consider the purpose of the video game music: to help create an immersive environment and to facilitate but not distract from a task that requires constant attention and focus. ”

You can read the full article over on theguardian.com.


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