Community//

Music: Insights on Listening to Improve Your Performance at Work

***

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

Music plays an important role in our life. It influences our emotions, eases stress and tension, and has therapeutic value. For example, listening to music before a medical procedure, such as a colonoscopy, reduces anxiety

One of the questions people often ask is, “How does music influence our performance?” To answer this question, we have to distinguish between listening to music prior to work or when we take a break, and listening to music while we are working, as background music.

Music arouses different emotions that have a different influence on our cognitive performance. Studies show that participants who listened for ten minutes to a fast and happy Mozart sonata before they were given a cognitive task performed better than those who did not listen to music or listened to a sad and slow music. This was called the Mozart effect. Most researchers believe that music influences our emotions, which influence our cognitive performance.

So before starting to work on a task that demands analytic and or/creative thinking, take a break, and listen to happy music that you like.

As for background music, the findings are inconsistent. Some studies found that it improved performance, while others found that background music had a negative effect on various memory and reading tasks.

These inconsistent findings are not surprising. To evaluate the influence of music on our performance, we have to take into consideration many factors. First, it depends on the type of work we are doing. Some tasks are more complicated, some demand attention and memory, some demand analytic and/or creative thinking, and some are repetitive and boring. We also have to take into consideration the various characteristics of music such as genre (pop, classical, heavy metal, etc.), tempo, volume, and likability.

Here are a few general guidelines:

The type of music matters. For example, studies showed that listening to fast and loud music, such as hip-hop, while working had a negative influence on performance in reading comprehension. In contrast, listening to classical music that was relatively quiet and slow did not have a negative effect on performance. Other studies showed that listening to happy music enhanced creative ideas.

When you listen matters. The same type of music that enhances our performance when we listen to it before we start working can have a negative influence on our performance if you listen to it while working.

Studies show that listening to uplifting music or any music that we like before we start working often has a positive effect on our performance. In contrast, listening to music that we like while we are working has a negative effect on our performance. These findings make sense. When we listen to music that we like, it lifts our mood. If that happens before we start working, it has a positive effect on our performance. However, when we listen to the same music while we are working, even though it enhances our mood and arousal, it also distracts us from focusing on our work tasks, which of course has a negative influence on our performance. Listening to music we don’t like during work has a similar effect; it disturbs our performance.

So, if you do want to have background music while you are working, it should be quiet music that you feel neutral about, and don’t especially like or dislike.

The type of task matters. Background music that is especially fast and loud or that we like has a negative influence on reading and memory tasks, but it has a positive effect on performance in sports and on physical work. Studies show that music had a positive effect when we work out, and people worked harder and longer when they listened to music with a fast tempo.

To sum up, although there is no simple answer regarding the influence of music on our work, studies clearly show that listening to music before you start working, or during a break, enhances performance. As for background music, that depends on the task and on the type of music.

**Originally published at PsychCentral

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Marcel ter Bekke/Getty Images
Well-Being//

The Science of How Music Affects Your Productivity

by Mayo Oshin
Mallika Wiriyathitipirn / EyeEm / Getty Images
Wisdom//

6 Types of Music for Maximum Productivity, According to Science

by Nicolas Cole
The music you love tells who you are! Without music human life is nothing but breath.
Community//

The Co-relation Bond of Music and Life Psychology!

by Nitin Saxena

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.