For many people, engaging in hours of uninterrupted work requires some sort of performance enhancer. Coffee or any other liquid stimulant is usually the first option. However, a lot of people believe that listening to music diminishes distraction and improves performance. But there are those who think of it as adding another layer of complexity to the task at hand.
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The big question then is: Does listening to music improve work performance? Well, the answer is Yes, and No. Several factors are crucial to a person’s overall performance when listening to music and performing a task simultaneously. For example: is the music simple or complex, is the task easy or difficult?
A recent study, published on the Journal of Experimental Psychology, was carried out to determine how music impacts the outcome of specific tasks. These tasks ranged from easy ones like searching through word lists and crossing out words containing the letter “a”, to difficult ones like recalling memorized word pairs.
The findings suggest that participants who listened to simple or no music performed about the same on the easy task, while those who listened to complex music performed best on the easy task. On the other hand, participants who listened to music (whether simple or complex) while carrying out difficult tasks performed worse than their counterparts.
What then can be deduced from all of these?
Humans have limited mental resources from which both music and tasks draws from. We can easily get bored on a job and listening to music is apt for rejuvenating the mind to deliver optimal performance. That is, if the task at hand is not so mentally-demanding.
However, we can become overstimulated and distracted when our mental resources are overwhelmed. The reason is not far-fetched, we typically need to use fewer of our mental resources when we perform easy tasks, whereas demanding tasks require more brainpower.
The conclusion of the matter is that while it can actually be helpful to put on some music when you work on something that you find relatively straightforward and repetitive; music can hurt when a task requires your full attention. Nonetheless, what works for your friend may not exactly work for you, as each person's brain is wired differently. So, by all means, stick to what works best for you.
Article Credit: Michael Adesanya