Music and distraction

Does music impede studying and thinking?
psychology, bibliography, technology, music
2012-09-262019-03-03 in progress certainty: unlikely importance: 8


We like mu­sic but does it help or harm cog­ni­tive per­for­mance when we have mu­sic play­ing all the time?

Note this is a differ­ent ques­tion from the in that the Mozart-effect stud­ies usu­ally test per­for­mance after lis­ten­ing to clas­si­cal mu­sic, while we’re in­ter­ested in per­for­mance dur­ing lis­ten­ing to all kinds of mu­sic; the Mozart effect has been largely de­bunked (no/small effect) but that does­n’t tell us much about dur­ing mu­sic (it could be per­for­mance fell dur­ing lis­ten­ing and re­cov­ered after­wards when test­ed).

Cur­rent best meta-analy­sis: , Kampfe et al 2011?

“Sphe­rion Sur­vey: Work­ers Say Lis­ten­ing to Mu­sic While Work­ing Im­proves Job Sat­is­fac­tion, Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty; Nearly one-third of adult work­ers lis­ten to mu­sic at work us­ing an iPod, MP3 player or sim­i­lar per­sonal mu­sic de­vice”

https://web.archive.org/web/20120604083935/http://hr.blr.com/HR-news/HR-Administration/Communication/Workers-Say-Listening-to-Music-Boosts-Job-Satisfac/ http://www.musicworksforyou.com/research/research-topics/8-productivity http://www.musicworksforyou.com/research/research-topics/10-branding https://digital.library.txstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10877/5483/Thesis%20Final1.pdf?sequence=1 The effects of mu­sic on mood, anx­i­ety, and job sat­is­fac­tion: self­-re­ports from oc­cu­pa­tional work­ers “The myths of the dig­i­tal na­tive and the mul­ti­tasker”, Kirschner & De Bruy­ckere 2017

Sum­mary of

In lab stud­ies, peo­ple who lis­ten to mu­sic they like, gen­er­ally per­form bet­ter at men­tal tasks after­wards, an effect that’s been at­trib­uted to boosts in mood and arousal. But what about the effect of back­ground mu­sic that plays on dur­ing a task - more akin what we do in real life? This is ac­tu­ally less stud­ied. The tra­di­tional mood-arousal lit­er­a­ture would pre­dict it to be ben­e­fi­cial too, es­pe­cially if the mu­sic is to the lis­ten­er’s taste.

How­ev­er, there’s an­other line of re­search, known as the “Ir­rel­e­vant Sound Effect”, that’s all about the way back­ground sounds can in­ter­fere with our short­-term mem­ory for or­dered lists, which would be a bad thing for many work-re­lated tasks. These stud­ies show that the dis­trac­tion is greater when the sound is more acousti­cally var­ied - just like your typ­i­cal pop song. Based on this, Nick Per­ham and Mar­tinne Sykora made a coun­ter-in­tu­itive pre­dic­tion - back­ground mu­sic that you like will be more detri­men­tal to work­ing mem­ory than un­ap­peal­ing mu­sic, so long as the liked mu­sic has more acousti­cal vari­a­tion than the dis­liked mu­sic.

Twen­ty-five un­der­grads com­pleted sev­eral se­r­ial re­call tasks. They were pre­sented with strings of eight con­so­nants and had to re­peat them back from mem­ory in the cor­rect or­der. Per­for­mance was best in the quiet con­di­tion, but the key find­ing was that par­tic­i­pants’ per­for­mance was worse when they com­pleted the mem­ory task with a song they liked play­ing over head­phones (In­fer­nal’s “From Paris to Berlin”), com­pared with a song they dis­liked (songs such as “Acid Bath” from the grind core metal band Re­pul­sion). In case you’re won­der­ing, par­tic­i­pants who liked Re­pul­sion were ex­cluded from the study.

Par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant, since peo­ple like to claim their fa­vorite mu­sic “helps them fo­cus” (e­spe­cially if it’s vo­cal? per the ):

A fur­ther in­trigu­ing de­tail from the study is the par­tic­i­pants’ lack of in­sight into the de­gree of dis­trac­tion as­so­ci­ated with each type of mu­sic. Asked to judge their own per­for­mance, they de­ter­mined cor­rectly that their mem­ory was more ac­cu­rate in the quiet con­di­tion, but they did­n’t re­alise that their per­for­mance was poor­est whilst lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic they liked.

Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty:

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[BOOK] The effects of back­ground mu­sic on the read­ing per­for­mance of Tai­wanese ESL stu­dents P Chou - 2007 - book­s.­google.­com

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Cor­re­la­tion be­tween work con­cen­tra­tion level and back­ground mu­sic: A pi­lot study http://scholar.fju.edu.tw/%E8%AA%B2%E7%A8%8B%E5%A4%A7%E7%B6%B1/upload/026299/handout/982/D-7003-14212-B.pdf YN Shih, RH Huang, H Chi­ang - Work, 2009 - schol­ar.fju.e­du.tw

(note that Shih et al 2009 is an RCT, de­spite the ti­tle)

DEMAND CHARACTERISTICS OF MUSIC AFFECT PERFORMANCE ON THE WONDERLIC PERSONNEL TEST OF INTELLIGENCE 1 CC Ver­pael­st, LG Stand­ing - Per­cep­tual and mo­tor skills, 2007

Effect of mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence on ver­bal mem­ory in Williams syn­drome: ev­i­dence from a novel word learn­ing task MA Martens, MK Jungers, AL Steele - Neu­ropsy­cholo­gia, 2011 - El­se­vier

Mu­sic lis­ten­ing while you learn: No in­flu­ence of back­ground mu­sic on ver­bal learn­ing L Jancke, P Sand­mann - Be­hav­ioral and Brain Func­tions, 2010 - bio­med­cen­tral.­com

Per­son­al­ity and mu­sic: An effect on arith­metic per­for­mance S Ahlawat, P Ba­tra, A Sharma - In­dian Jour­nal of Pos­i­tive …, 2012

“Back­ground mu­sic: effects on at­ten­tion per­for­mance”, Shih et al 2012

The effect of back­ground mu­sic on cog­ni­tive per­for­mance in mu­si­cians and non-mu­si­cians LLM PATSTON, L TIPPETT - Mu­sic Per­cep­tion /docs/music-distraction/2011-patston.pdf

“In­flu­ence of back­ground mu­sic on work at­ten­tion in clients with chronic schiz­o­phre­nia”, Shih et al 2014

Uso de la música para mejo­rar tar­eas mo­toras de los tra­ba­jadores” [“Mu­sic use to im­prove work­ers’ mo­tor tasks”], Gómez 2017 (re­view)

“The effects of back­ground mu­sic on the work at­ten­tion per­for­mance be­tween mu­si­cians and non-mu­si­cians”, Wu & Shih 2019