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I'm a high school student and when I'm studying / working on homework, I often listen to music, but its very hard for me to tell whether or not this is helping me or hindering me from an objective stance. What I've heard from teachers and lecturers seems to be based on their own opinion more then anything else.

It was also the opinion of a person I know that music is good to listen to when you need to do something analytical, but it can easily have adverse effects when you are doing things which require creativity. It's also my own experience that when I'm not listening to music, I start humming myself.

This effect is generally known scientifically as the Mozart effect:

A set of research results that indicate that listening to Mozart's music may induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as "spatial-temporal reasoning;"

In short, are there positive effects of music in terms of learning, memorising, writing and mathematical ability?

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    I've added a reference in your question to make it more specific. – Sklivvz Apr 3 '11 at 10:39
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    The presence of lyrics can impact the effect of music on productivity, since the brain will process spoken words even if you aren't consciously listening. I believe part of that is what contributes to the notion of classical music over modern music. – Sold Out Activist Sep 1 '11 at 13:38
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    Music improves my dancing performance. – Muhd Feb 18 '12 at 7:41
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No definitive study appears to have been carried out, but the Mozart effect has no effect on spatial awareness:

There was no significant main effect of music and no significant difference between the pretest and post-test scores for both groups.

Groups performed similarly on the control test and the experimental test, irrespective of whether they listened to Mozart or to popular dance music. Since the two different designs produced similar findings, the data suggest that the Mozart effect is so ephemeral that it is questionable as to whether any practical application will come from it. In the discussion, we suggest more fruitful avenues for future research on the relationship between music and spatial performance: arousal and transfer of learning.

But listening to popular music has been shown to improve performance in a paper folding exercise for 10-11 year olds.

...performance on the other test (paper folding) was superior for children who listened to popular music compared to the other two groups.

For a good overview of the history of Mozart Effect research, this paper, The Mozart effect: Tracking the evolution of a scientific legend - it looks like a good read. The Skeptic's Dictionary also has a good article on it.

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    Last line of the abstract description: "These findings are consistent with the view that positive benefits of music listening on cognitive abilities are most likely to be evident when the music is enjoyed by the listener." You have to like the music first. – Sold Out Activist Sep 1 '11 at 13:35
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    @SoldOutActivist Now all we need to do is convert everyone in the whole of the United States of America into classical music fans. – Mateen Ulhaq Dec 31 '11 at 1:23
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The service focus@will is based on the concept of music improving your focus, allowing you to perform better and longer on tasks which require it. The music they use isn't Mozart, but it is (according to them) specifically designed to improve the listener's focus. They state that their service can increase focus by 12-15% and increase session time by 400%.

focus@will links to a large number of published resources on the subject which they based their research on, as well as their own whitepaper.

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    I see a self-interested, unpeer-reviewed white paper and a list of references, with no clear explanation of how they support the claim. This needs a bit more work before we can see whether there is anything to their claims. – Oddthinking Nov 7 '15 at 6:15
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    > The claims that Focus@will makes on its website are very specific. We’re told that attention span is boosted by up to 400% and that “trials show typical 12-15% positive increase in focus biomarker.” However, if you go to the “science” page of their website, there are no references to any trials. If you click on the “literature” tab, you’ll find a wide assortment of scientific references, some decades old, others more recent. Crucially, not one of them is a trial for the benefits of the Focus@will app. -Wired – Oddthinking Nov 7 '15 at 6:16
  • I'm in agreement with the above commenters. There is a big literature dump on one page, most of which doesn't really seem related to music, and the experiment in their white paper only seems to have measured some kind of brain response - not an actual performance / memory recall difference. – Tomas Nov 7 '15 at 6:40

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