Can Listening to Music Make You Smarter?
Sean Higgins
Can Listening to Music Make You Smarter?

Many of us have heard that listening to music — especially classical music — can boost our brain power and make us more intelligent.

Is there any truth to this saying, though?

Kind of.

This article explains the benefits of music for your brain health, memory, work performance, and overall well-being. 

The Link Between Music and Increased Intelligence

The idea that listening to music can make you smarter stems from a 1993 study.

The researchers behind this study found that college students’ spatial-temporal reasoning (the ability to solve problems by mentally moving objects in space) improved by 8-9 points after listening to a Mozart sonata for ten minutes.

Many people learned about these results and jumped to the conclusion that listening to Mozart would make them smarter. Georgia’s governor Zell Mill even proposed allocating $105,000 of the state’s budget to expose more infants to Mozart’s music.

Dr. Frances Rauscher, one of the researchers behind this experiment, has repeatedly emphasized that the results only had to do with spatial-temporal reasoning, not general intelligence.

Music’s Effect on the Brain 

Your IQ will not automatically increase just because you listened to classical music (or any type of music, for that matter). However, this doesn’t mean that music isn’t without merit.

Although music alone cannot boost your intelligence, it’s still powerful.

Research shows that music activates various networks in the brain, including the auditory cortex and parts of the brain associated with emotion, memory, and motor coordination. Stimulating these parts of the brain strengthens them and keeps your brain pathways and networks healthy and functional.

Brain-Boosting Benefits of Music

What happens when you regularly activate various brain areas by listening to music? Simply put, a lot.

Here are some specific brain-boosting benefits you can experience when you regularly listen to music: 

Increased Creativity

Even if you’re not in an artistic or imaginative field, you can still benefit from increasing creativity. Creativity helps you develop new products, find solutions to existing problems, and put yourself in other people’s shoes.

If you struggle with generating new ideas or seeing things from new perspectives, you might need to start listening to music more often.

Some studies show that listening to music can enhance creativity. This outcome is particularly true for people who listen to happy or upbeat music that puts them in a positive mood.

Improved Memory and Cognition

Listening to music can improve your memory, cognition, and learning capabilities.

Compared to those who completed cognitive tasks in silence, researchers found that those who listened to music had an easier time completing cognitive tasks and got more answers correct.

The researchers specifically had participants listen to soft music in the background. They also suggested that relaxing music, such as jazz or classical, was more beneficial than other types.

Both hearing and performing music can also activate areas of the brain associated with memory. It has been shown to help people retrieve stored memories and form new ones. 

Reduced Stress

Stress plagues millions of Americans every day. Listening to music more often is a simple, free way to reduce stress and improve their sense of well-being.

Certain types of music can alter the brain and help you feel more relaxed.

For example, studies show that songs with 60 beats per minute cause alpha brainwaves (brainwaves associated with relaxed consciousness), which are associated with creativity. On the other hand, music with fewer beats per minute can also cause delta brainwaves, which help you calm down and fall asleep after a long day. 

Stanford University researchers also claim that listening to music changes brain function similarly to medication.

Improved Mood Regulation

It’s easier to learn, focus at work, and perform well when your mood is regulated and you’re not struggling with anxiety or depression. Music can help you achieve this state. 

Listening to music lowers cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and contributes to dopamine (a reward hormone) production. This combination of events can boost your mood. 

The part of the brain that processes music — the amygdala — also plays a crucial role in mood and emotional regulation.

Increased Motivation and Engagement

Music can boost your motivation and engagement at work, too. When you need to get in the zone and bust out some work, listening to music with a fast tempo can help you be more productive and stay focused on the task at hand. 

How to Incorporate More Music into Your Life

Do you want to experience the benefits of listening to music? If so, you must make it a regular part of your routine. Here are some specific ways you can do this:

Listen While You Get Ready

If you need help boosting motivation in the morning and getting in the right headspace for the day ahead, play music while you shower, put on your makeup, or get dressed. Instead of doom-scrolling or losing yourself in a TikTok vortex, try listening to music.  

Listen While You Work

Play music while you work, too. Whether you wear noise-canceling headphones or play music softly in your office, this is an excellent way to improve your focus and motivation while you check items off your to-do list.

Listen During Your Commute

Between the stress of sitting and traffic and the worry about all the emails rushing into your inbox, it’s easy to get yourself worked up while traveling to the office. Playing upbeat or calming music can help you feel more relaxed and focused, so you arrive at work in a better headspace.  

Listen Before a Big Meeting or Event

You can also play music before you go to a big meeting or another event (to deliver a speech to your team, for example). The right song can clear your head, help you feel more confident, and set you up for your best performance.

Make Listening to Music a Habit with BetterYou

When you establish a habit of listening to music, you can experience many incredible benefits, from better memory to improved mood.

If you need help creating a habit of regularly listening to music, BetterYou can help. BetterYou is an app designed to help you easily enjoy 30 minutes of “you time” daily. That’s time you could spend listening to music and nourishing your brain! 

Request a demo of BetterYou today to see what it’s all about!

The BetterYou app uses behavior science to improve digital health and make it stick.

Want to learn how?