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In-office music choice and productivity

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Do you play music in your office? The classics or top 40? iPod or radio? It may seem like a minor aspect of your office’s inner workings but according to a new study, the music played while working can have a detrimental effect on concentration levels. And surprisingly, it’s not the volume or genre which matters most, but individual tastes and preferences.

In a study at the University of Lund in Sweden, researchers investigated reading comprehension of participants when subjected to different listening conditions. The study ‘Eye movements and reading comprehension while listening to preferred and non-preferred study music’ was published in the March edition of Psychology of Music.

“Students often read and study in environments where certain distracters, voluntary or not, compete for their attention. Typical situations include studying while listening to music, watching television or listening to people talking in a café,” says the report. “Today, portable players have made it possible to listen to music anywhere, anytime.”

Participants were subjected to four different conditions:

  • Reading text while listening to preferred music
  • Reading text while listening to music they did not like
  • Reading text while listening to a recording of a noisy café
  • Reading text in silence.

After reading the text, the participants then completed a reading-comprehension text.

The results? Participants scored significantly lower on the reading-comprehension test while listening to music they did not prefer, than results when reading in silence. However, there was little difference in test results between the other three conditions.

“Non-preferred music impairs reading comprehension,” concludes the study.

However, the researchers do note that other music characteristics have the potential to influence scores including tempo, complexity, genre and whether it is instrumental or vocal.

What music or noise you play in your office, therefore, might be best decided upon by a show of hands. Explicit rap, anyone?

Published on: Friday, May 06, 2011

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In-office music choice and productivity

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