Music May Impede Work Performance

A recent study examines how productivity and efficiency can be negatively affected.

As we have become an iPod nation, soundtracks often play an integral roles in our daily routines. As such, some companies have become quite relaxed in allowing employees to listen to music during work hours. Yet, how music affects performing tasks is only recently beginning to be understood. Applied Cognitive Psychology recently conducted research on how music may impede our efficiency:

The researchers explored the ‘irrelevant sound effect’ by requiring participants to perform serial recall (recall a list of 8 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.

While this study may have different variables affecting its accuracy, including the participant’s mental relationship with the music, this does give credence to the ‘silence is golden’ mentality adopted by so many libraries.

Wiley InterScience: “Can preference for background music mediate the irrelevant sound effect?”

[via: Science Daily]

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