Your surroundings have a big impact on how well you learn. Your study environment — whether you’re in a small or large room, a loud or a quiet one, even a blue or a red one — can change your emotions, thoughts, and focus. That means that surrounding yourself with the correct stimuli can make the difference between studying that sticks…or doesn’t.
We’re going to cover three specific characteristics to help you build the ideal environment when studying at home:
- Noise Level
The Effect of Color
While much of the field of color psychology is unproven, one study has noted a correlation between the color red and poorer test performance. No one knows why, but the common wisdom holds that red excites our nervous system, making us agitated or excited and less likely to focus. Of course it’s hard to dictate the color of the room that’s most convenient for you, but if you can, try to pick a room without loud colors. You don’t want the walls themselves to distract you!
Does Room Size Affect At-Home Studying?
Are you claustrophobic? Then avoid the cupboard under the stairs, Harry! Room size has different effects on different people. While a small space could help reduce distractions for one student, it might make another anxious. Anxiety can lead to interruptions in certain cognitive functions, like working memory. Pick a room that makes you feel calm and happy as you begin studying at home more. Chances are you’ll pay better attention to your work.
Noise is another surprising stressor. Some scientists think that background noise creates a certain amount of bodily stress, producing a hormone called cortisol. Excess cortisol keeps a section of the brain called the prefrontal cortex from working properly. The prefrontal cortex helps control what’s called “executive” functions, including planning and reasoning — two faculties you’ll need while you’re studying!
While families are stuck at home, finding a quiet corner can be particularly challenging. Now you have the ammo you need to tell your little brother to keep it down—your cortisol levels are interfering with your learning!
What About Music?
But what about music? After all, plenty of people claim that listening to Mozart makes you smarter. Surely the right music could help you study, right? The science is pretty mixed. The so-called Mozart Effect was illustrated by a study in which college students who listened to Mozart performed better on a test of spatial reasoning than students who listened to relaxation music or to nothing at all. However, the boost to performance lasted only for a few minutes, and other studies have failed to replicate the results—so Mozart doesn’t make you smarter. Lots of other researchers have looked into the cognitive effects of music. Some studies have shown that music that promotes positive feelings and that doesn’t have a lot of tempo changes might be beneficial. Others have shown no effect regardless of the music or have shown inconsistent results. In the end, whether music will help depends on a lot of factors: what you’re studying, what music you play, how loud you play it, and your own personality and preferences.
What’s your perfect study environment?
Only you can figure that out, but our suggestion is to trust your gut. Look for a room that makes you feel at ease, preferably a quiet one with cool colors. The more relaxed you are, the better you’ll remember why the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is important (hint: it has nothing to do with the rock band), or when George Washington forded the Delaware, or who discovered DNA. Find a great place, and hit those books!
Need help keeping your studying on track? Contact your local C2 Education center for a free consultation.