Music May Not Make You as Productive as You Thoughtadmin
Music enthusiasts and psychologists Manuel Gonzalez of Baruch College and John Aiello, professor of psychology at Rutgers University set out to answer a simple question; does music improve performance and productivity, or is it more of a distraction? The answer, come to find out, is both, it all just depends on the type of work.
In their recent study, participants were brought into their lab and given a variety of tasks with different levels of difficulty to complete. Some participants completed their assigned tasks in silence while others completed their tasks while listening to instrumental music that was either loud or soft and simple or complex.
They found participants who listened to simple music or no music performed the same on the easier task, but those who listened to complex music performed best on the easy task. When it came to performing the more difficult task, however, those listening to any music performed worse than those who completed the task in silence.
“We suggest that people have limited mental resources from which both music and tasks can draw,” Gonzalez and Aiello wrote. “We can become bored and our minds may wander when these resources are underutilized. But we also can become overstimulated and distracted when these resources are overwhelmed.”
In addition, the duo also determined the effects of music may also depend on the individual’s personality. Some people may have a preference for external stimulation, meaning they tend to seek out and pay greater attention to things that are happening in their surroundings. Therefore, for this group of individuals, music “might suck up more mental resources…meaning a more delicate balance may need to be struck for these types of people when they listen to music during tasks.”
At the end of the day, Gonzalez and Aiello concluded that it can actually be helpful to listen to music when working on something straightforward and repetitive, but music can pose as a distraction when it’s time to work on something that requires your full attention, “so it’s probably best to turn off Iron Maiden or B.B. King when it’s time to write that paper.”