Does Music Boost Your Cognitive Performance?

Does Music Boost Your Cognitive(ˈkäɡnədiv) Performance?

The answer depends on your personality(ˌpərsəˈnalədē)

By Cindi May

Music makes life better in so many ways. It elevates(ˈeləˌvāt) mood, reduces(rəˈd(y)o͞os) stress and eases(ēz) pain. Music is heart-healthy, because it can lower blood(bləd) pressure, reduce heart rate(rāt) and decrease(dəˈkrēs) stress hormones(ˈhôrˌmōn) in the blood. It also connects us with others and enhances social bonds. Music can even improve workout endurance(inˈd(y)o͝orəns) and increase our enjoyment(inˈjoimənt) of challenging activities.

The fact that music can make a difficult task more tolerable(ˈtäl(ə)rəb(ə)l) may be why students often choose to listen to it while doing their homework or studying for exams. But is listening to music the smart choice for students who want to optimize(ˈäptəˌmīz) their learning?

A new study by Manuel Gonzalez of Baruch(ˈbäro͝ok) College(ˈkälij) and John(jän) Aiello of Rutgers University suggests that for some students, listening to music is indeed a wise strategy, but for others, it is not. The effect of music on cognitive functioning appears not to be “one-size-fits-all” but to instead depend, in part, on your personality—specifically, on your need for external stimulation. People with a high requirement for such stimulation tend to get bored(bôrd) easily and to seek out external input. Those individuals often do worse, paradoxically(ˌperəˈdäksik(ə)lē), when listening to music while engaging in a mental task. People with a low need for external stimulation, on the other hand, tend to improve their mental performance with music.