Music in Lectures and Examinations to Promote Right Brain Activity
7 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2015 Last revised: 11 Jan 2017
Date Written: March 1, 2015
Since 1998, most of John Prebble’s classes in Laws 211 Contract and Laws 365 Elements of Taxation have been accompanied by background music from the Baroque era, approximately 1600 to 1750. The same music was played in 2012 and 2013 as background to classes in Taxn 301, Advanced Domestic Taxation, a course in the Victoria University Business School.
Broadly speaking, most music from the Baroque period is suitable to listen to while studying or in class. People are not entirely certain why this should be, but one plausible explanation is that Baroque music generally has a very regular tempo and, apart from fast movements, about one beat per second. That is said to be approximately the rate of alpha waves in the human brain. There are thought to be two possible benefits.
First, some people hypothesize that stimulating alpha waves may promote creative thinking. Most legal study calls more directly on the analytical processes of the brain. It is thought that people can learn more effectively if creative processes are brought to bear at the same time. Secondly, people generally learn best if they are in a state described as “relaxed alertness”. Music that mimics the pattern of alpha waves is thought to promote this state. Surveys of student preferences show that about 75 per cent prefer music in class, and another 10 per cent or more are indifferent.
Music in examinations: Experience suggests that the longer and more intensively people have been exposed to Baroque music during teaching the more likely they are to opt to have Baroque music during examinations if they are given that choice. In 2013 after 6 weeks or so of music in lectures over 70 per cent of classes in both contract and taxation opted for music in their mid-term examination. Students who chose music scored higher than those who chose silence. The difference in contract was two per cent and in taxation four per cent.
The paper examines some of the hypotheses that attempt to explain such results.
Keywords: Legal education, Teaching, Music, Boroque Music, Psychology
JEL Classification: I20, I21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation