Researchers University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC), led by expert and psychology lecturer Nick Perham, have recently concluded a new study on how music affects the way we perform tasks. For many years, scientists have known that listening to our favorite tunes can have a host of beneficial effects on our bodies and moods, but thus far no one ever conducted investigations into whether these influences vary with timing, AlphaGalileo
What the UWIC team did was check to see whether the changes listening to music elicits in our bodies vary depending on when we listen to the tunes. Some of the most commonly-met benefits of listening to music include the reduction of anxiety and depression symptoms, the alleviation of dark moods, increased cognitive functions, and a more complex spatial awareness. But experts have never studied how our preference for a particular type of music affects performance. They also never looked to see whether the cognitive boost benefits are the same if we listen to music before engaging in a task, during it or afterwards. This was the goal of the new research.
In a series of tests, participants were asked recall a list of 8 consonants in a specific order, a test known as a serial recall. They were subjected to five sound environments as they did so (quiet music, liked music, disliked music, changing-state sounds and steady-state sounds). The participants performed best when they were subjected to quieter, steady-state environments, the research team reports. This means that listening to music – regardless of whether people liked it or not – impaired their performances.
“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,” Perham explains. The team published the results of its investigation in the latest issue of the esteemed scientific journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.
“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,” Perham concludes.