Lofi music has swept college campuses everywhere and is reported as a helpful study aid by many. But what is so special about this type of music? Why do some people swear by it? Why do people purport drastic results?
With playlist titles such as “Lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax and study to,” “3:30 a.m. coding session – Lofi hip hop mix” and “Cozy winter Lofi hip-hop study beats,” it is clear that the Lofi creators and community find it to have a certain mood-setting atmosphere.
To understand why this might be, it helps to first understand what lofi music is. Lofi stands for low fidelity and is essentially intentionally low-quality (in an audio sense) music with lots of white noise, random sounds and repetition. But that does not tell us why it helps.
“What the research shows is that if we are studying something (and) want to listen to music, your best music is something without words because processing of words from texts that your reading and the music your listening to come from the same pool of cognitive resources,” said Dr. Erin Smith, associate professor of psychology. “So even when people say ‘I have to have music to study. It helps me increase my focus,’ if the music has words they will be, whether they mean to or not, be using some of their cognitive resource to process the words in the music, which actually detracts from their ability to direct those same resources to whatever they are reading.”
Smith said that because of the lack of words, lofi music can help those who like to have noise in the background while studying become more effective in their studying.
“It works as good background music because it is not telling a story with its words,” said Trennon Williamson, junior Christian studies and philosophy double major.
But what about lofi music specifically helps an individual?
“Not all music without words is equal,” Smith said. “You can listen to some classical music and it is like the 17th-century head-banging music. Music without words is going to exist on a continuum in terms of its complexity.”
Smith said that it would be believable if research showed there to be a connection between lofi music and entrance into a flow state, a psychological principle coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian positive psychologist.
“Going into flow is when you get so immersed in your task, it’s like you lose your sense of everything else,” Smith said.
Williamson notices a similar phenomena when studying with lofi music.
“If I have to write a six-page paper in one night, I put on lofi music and I can actually sit down and do the paper,” Williamson said.
However, Smith speculated that depending on one’s extroversion, they could be more or less likely to find positive effects from lofi.
This seems to be consistent with the experiences of Ambar Arellanez, junior nutrition and food science major, who seems to only be able to use the benefits of Lofi under certain conditions.
“If I’m not in a distracted mode, it helps me zone in on my work,” Arellanez said.
Whether you are an introvert and need quiet or an extrovert who needs the white noise, this type of music is worth giving a try.
It is easily accessible on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and other platforms.