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For Some Tasks, Music Hinders Performance

For Some Tasks, Music Hinders Performance Emerging research presents new, and somewhat provocative, findings on how music can help or hinder performance.

For decades research has shown that listening to music alleviates anxiety and depression, enhances mood, and can increase cognitive functioning, such as spatial awareness.

However, until now, research has not addressed how we listen to music. For instance, is the cognitive benefit still the same if we listen to music while performing a task, rather than before it?

Further, how does our preference for a particular type of music affect performance?

The new study, found in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, shows that listening to music that one likes while performing a serial recall task does not help performance any more than listening to music one does not enjoy.

The researchers explored the ‘irrelevant sound effect’ by requiring participants to perform serial recall (recall a list of eight consonants in presentation order) in the presence of five sound environments: quiet, liked music (e.g., Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Stranglers, and Arcade Fire), disliked music (the track “Thrashers” by Death Angel), changing-state (a sequence of random digits such as “4, 7, 1, 6”) and steady-state (“3, 3, 3”).

Recall ability was approximately the same, and poorest, for the music and changing-state conditions.

The most accurate recall occurred when participants performed the task in the quieter, steady-state environments. Thus listening to music, regardless of whether people liked or disliked it, impaired their concurrent performance.

Lead researcher Nick Perham explains: “The poorer performance of the music and changing-state sounds are due to the acoustical variation within those environments. This impairs the ability to recall the order of items, via rehearsal, within the presented list. Mental arithmetic also requires the ability to retain order information in the short-term via rehearsal, and may be similarly affected by their performance in the presence of changing-state, background environments.”

Although music can have a very positive effect on our general mental health, music can, in the circumstances described, also have negative effects on cognitive performance.

Perham remarks, “Most people listen to music at the same time as, rather than prior to performing a task. To reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in order one should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task.”

Source: Wiley-Blackwell

For Some Tasks, Music Hinders Performance

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). For Some Tasks, Music Hinders Performance. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/07/28/for-some-tasks-music-hinders-performance/16111.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.