We all know the feeling of being unable to focus while studying. No matter how long you stare at the words in your book or on your flash cards, it can be impossible to focus. Sometimes, it’s the click of someone else’s pen, or a foot tapping in the room, or the TV blaring in the next room. Many people swear that having music playing in the background is only way they’ll focus. But, why?

To some, the concept of having music playing while also trying to focus on something entirely different may seem counter-intuitive. The truth is: it is all about the brain.

While the brain is a mystery to most us, it appears that we have two attention centers. The first is the most direct and controlled center of attention. It is the side that we use to read, walk, and hear when we do any of these things consciously. The second attention center is the uncontrolled one and it is what your brain is using when you hear footsteps approaching or you hear people talking near you. This is the center that can be aided by playing music.

Particularly when trying to focus on doing something that’s not enjoyable, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by the secondary attention center. That’s what causes you to become irritated at the sound of someone else’s clicking pen while trying to study calculus at the library. If you genuinely dislike the thing you are trying to focus on, your secondary attention center will steal your attention.

This is where music comes into play. If you fill your secondary attention center with something calming like classical guitar, violin, or piano music, it may be easier to focus on what’s in your primary attention center.

So, try listening to some music while you study! It’s recommended to use music without lyrics or words. Maybe some clarinet or flute music will be for you or perhaps a whole orchestra piece will help you zone into your work.

Brenda M.

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