Should you be listening to music at work?

Should you be listening to music at work?

Cranking up the tunes could be hurting your creativity, according to research published in Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Researchers asked study participants to complete word tasks in which they were given three words and asked to come up with a fourth word to either place before or after to create new phrases.

Participants completed this task in different environments –a quiet background, a background with library-like noise levels and a third with music playing (either instrumental, familiar lyrics or unfamiliar).

Researchers report “strong evidence of impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions,” which leads them to believe listening to music may interrupt the verbal working memory that supports creative problem-solving.

When the lyrics of the music were familiar to the participant, his or her level of creativity was hurt regardless of whether he or she enjoyed the music.

“This study provides some support to dispute the claim many people make – that listening to music when working actually helps them to concentrate,” says Dr. Kevin Krippner, clinical coordinator of behavioral health at Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill.

“Although it may be true that listening to music while working helps the time pass more quickly and seem like less of a task, it also seems logical that listening to music provides some negative distraction to the task at hand,” Dr. Krippner says. “And because different parts of the brain are used for different types of tasks, pulling attention away from the part of the brain that maximizes focus and concentration will probably impair performance in some way.”

Going to keep your headphones in anyway?

Dr. Krippner says if you choose to listen to music while you work, you may first want to consider if it’s more important to produce the best results or if you want your time spent working to seem less burdensome.

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One Comment

  1. I suffer from tinnitus and listening to soft music at work is very helpful, especially when the ringing is loud.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.