Is music recommended during learning?

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Question

p.w. asked:

SuperMemo Decalogue says that I should avoid distractions while learning. However, I absolutely love to combine incremental reading with music in the background. Do you believe my learning efficiency will suffer.

Answer

You need to decide. If you enjoy it, it probably works ok.

You need to consider two facts:

  • music is a distraction
  • if you love learning (e.g. with music in the background), you will learn more

The net result will depend on the individual.

If you love music while learning and you do not feel negatively impacted, you can probably safely leave it on. Anything that makes you love learning more should be cherished. However, if you ever feel irritable (e.g. due to processing difficult material), or find it hard to focus, consider turning it off or turning down the volume. Fun of learning is a good guidance.

If you are still not sure, try two different modes in two different months. You can then compare your learning statistics and make your decision.

Comment

m. commented:

I noticed a funny thing that can be detected with SuperMemo. If I am in a bad mood, or learning goes poorly, or music is distracting (e.g. when learning something very difficult), I change songs often (I play them via YouTube in incremental video in SuperMemo). However, when learning is very interesting, my change of songs is like a metronome. I go to my music collection every 20-25 min, do Next Repetition (to change the song), and go back to learning. I can then see in SuperMemo timeline how regular this subconscious process is! It does not seem to depend on the quality of songs. they just blend into the background of my mind. This is my idea then (if you play music from SuperMemo): check your timeline, if it is jittery, music might be a distraction. Otherwise, perhaps one could experiment with playing it for a while to see if learning suffers or not?