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Does music help us work better? It depends

Music and productivity

Music and productivity

During World War II, the BBC broadcasted upbeat music in factories twice a day to see if it might step up the pace of work and get the military what they needed. It worked. One report stated that the output at a factory increased by 12,5-15%.

Since then, music has started to play an important role in productivity.

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Does music help us work better? It depends

Does music help us work better? It depends

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200317-does-music-help-us-work-it-depends

bbc.com

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Key Ideas

Music and productivity

During World War II, the BBC broadcasted upbeat music in factories twice a day to see if it might step up the pace of work and get the military what they needed. It worked. One report stated that the output at a factory increased by 12,5-15%.

Since then, music has started to play an important role in productivity.

Music and motivation

Playing the right music in the office motivates staff.

When you're concentrating, you'll want calmer, more relaxing music. At the end of the day, when you're feeling tired, you'll desire more upbeat music.

The benefits of music

There are two possible ways music might be beneficial while working:

  • It makes us feel good, therefore helping us to work through otherwise tedious tasks.
  • It makes us smarter. The Mozart effect is a well-known example - that listening to a piano sonata composed by a genius can make you perform better.

Some famous composers' work has better cognitive benefits than others. Studies show that Mozart's sonata increased "alpha band" brain waves, which is linked to memory, cognition, and problem-solving.

Altering our mood

The "activation theory" is the idea is that people need a certain amount of mental arousal to function effectively.

One 1995 study found that when workers at a large retail organization were allowed to listen to personal stereos for one month, regardless of their choice of music, their performance improved significantly. The reason for improvements in productivity was how relaxed they felt.

Skewed perception

Some scientists think that music doesn't help us at all. It's possible that we view the ability to listen to music as a privilege from our employers, and convincing ourselves that we are working harder in turn.

In some contexts, music is actively detrimental, such as problem-solving, while listening to more cognitively demanding music, like jazz. One study found students performed worse in reading-comprehension and maths scores when they did them to music.

Keeping the context in mind

One meta-analysis concluded that background music disturbs the reading process and has a small harmful effect on memory, but has a positive impact on emotional reactions and improves achievements in sports.

Music might be beneficial in the workplace, depending on the type of work, the genre of music, your control over the music, and your personality.

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How the brain processes music

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  • one part of our brain decodes pitch and tempo
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Music, dementia, and rehabilitation

Some studies show that music can help improve movement in patients who have Parkinson’s disease, or people who have lost mobility or battle with language due to a stroke.

In one study, in particular, Alzheimer’s patients seem to maintain the ability to recognize music.

Music is good for you

Listening to music engages a huge network throughout the brain because music has so many components to it. It keeps your brain fit and healthy.

Music is also very therapeutic. It can lift your mood and help you to relax.

Happy/sad music

Our brains respond differently to happy or sad music.

One study revealed that participants interpreted a neutral expression as happy or sad to match the tone of the music they heard. 

Ambient noise can improve creativity

A moderate noise level is ideal to improve our creativity. It increases the processing difficulty which stimulates abstract processing, leading to higher creativity. 
High noise levels impair our creative thinking because we feel overwhelmed and struggle to process information properly.

Music and personality

Different genres correspond to our personality. For instance:

  • Blues and Jazz fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease
  • Classical music fans have high self-esteem, are creative, introvert and at ease
  • Opera fans have high self-esteem, are creative and gentle
  • Rock/heavy metal fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, and at ease

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