Entries in music (1)


Your brain on music-what does the research tell us?

Music, one element of the performing arts, has been part of our lives for centuries. It is now easier than ever to access our music no matter where we are. We listen whilst we cook, drive, clean and even when going for a run. My daily routine includes habitually navigating YouTube in search of music to play before starting work. I wonder if this contributes towards my productivity throughout the day; or maybe it has become something of a distraction, a means to escape the pressure to perform at work by becoming an audience for the musicians and singers I select.

The relationship between music and fundamental function has been heavily explored. N. Perham and J. Vizard preformed a small scale trial (25 participants) to understand the effect of music on remembering items in a specific order. Tests were carried out to explore the difference in results whilst music was prevalent and also when it was absent. Participants achieved the highest scores in the absence of music and lower scores when background music was played, whether it was liked or disliked by the participants.

An investigation by W. Brodsky and Z. Slor also demonstrated that music can be disruptive to young newly qualified drivers when taking to the wheel. The driving of 85 young-novice drivers was tested while playing preferred music, in-car music and no music. Driving while playing preferred music was reported to boost positive mood and enjoyment; however, increased driver miscalculation deficiency and traffic violations were also observed. On the other hand, listening to music that generated moderate levels of perceptual complexity improved the drivers’ performance leading to increased driver safety.
  Both experiments required individuals to be highly attentive and focused. The results indicate that preferred music has some negative effect on an individual’s performance; Nevertheless, this does not mean that music is bad for you. Another study carried out by A. Cabanac et. al. showed that students (560 participant aged 14 – 17) that chose a music course in their curriculum obtain higher grades on average compared to students that did not choose music as an optional course. This is the case in all subjects including Sport, Math, English and Science. The authors conclude that music can help relieve stress and as a result students taking musical courses perform better.
Personally, I think that the effect of music differs from person to person and depends on the task at hand. I would ideally avoid listening to music when high concentration is required; however, I believe music could help when performing repetitive tasks, as it can lead to positivity and enjoyment and, thus, increased productivity.
N. Perham and J. Vizard (2010) “Can preference for background music mediate the irrelevant sound effect?” Appl Cogn Psychol. 25:625-631.
W. Brodsky and Z. Slor (2013) “Background music as a risk factor for distraction among young-novice drivers” Accid Anal Prev. 59:382-93.
A. Cabanac et. al. (2013) “Music and academic performance” Behav Brain Res. 256:257-60.