Classical Music & Productivity. The Mozart Effect Might Work; er, At-Work:
Many of us listen to music on more-or-less a constant basis.
It’s often the soundtrack to our lives and can either reinforce, or substitute an emotional component to the day.
And while many of us would think it’s fairly-innocuous because we are usually the ones choosing what to listen to,
A small informal study suggests that depending on the context, what you listen to may be very important to how well you perform at all kinds of work…
Music Is The Soundtrack To The Movie Of Our Lives:
So for many of us, we listen to music for a few reasons.
Sonic backdrop, distraction, psychological reinforcement and sympathy, escape, etc.
And we often listen to different types based not just on the Context, but the Task at-hand.
Whether it’s calming-down after Work, endurance during Exercise, or even psyching yourself up before a big challenge,
It’s like your mind needs, or can benefit from, a primer or companion when you have to get different types of things done.
But The Short Answer for the current work shows that people who listened to Classical music while at-work were faster and more productive than those who listened to no music while working at all.
Read on to find out more details…
Anything To Improve Productivity:
Now if you’re at work, Productivity really matters.
And although an employer shouldn’t seek to be quite so controlling of their employees,
Anything that improves performance can make a real difference.
Even something like making sure as many people are at the optimum temperature as possible, preferably not too cold.
At least in the UK, it would also appear that people not only listen to music a lot during the day,
50% of them do so while at work.
Believe It Or Not, Your Favorite Music May Be Bad For Work:
So to probably counterpoint the previous study that shows people listening to some types of music are actually Less Creative,
Online classical radio station Scala teamed up with psychologist Dr. Becky Spelman to conduct a few tests on music that can help rather than hurt.
So to nail down the specifics, here are the parameters the Previous study tested.
1) Verbal creativity
2) Library background sounds
3) Music with foreign lyrics
4) Instrumental music
5) Music with familiar lyrics
6) Silent background
Every single environment tested by that Lancaster team reduced Verbal Creativity,
Except for 6) Silence or 2) Background noise that approximated a Library.
By contrast, Scala & Spelman tested Classical only.
But Spelman & Scala Tested Instruments-Only Classical:
In that relatively small test, 4 subjects were asked to complete a Transcription-task of 600-word sets of song lyrics.
The first run had subjects complete the task with no music on in silence.
The second trial was done with classical instrumental music playing the background.
Times to complete were as follows:
1) Trial 1: 21 Minutes
2) Trial 2: 17 Minutes, 42 Seconds
Now if these were not the exact same set of song-lyrics that the users just got better at writing down,
Then for some tasks, it would seem that you can get things done about 15% faster if there is the right type of music playing in the background.
Here’s Scala & Dr. Spelman’s short video:
So Why Might An Inverse-Relationship Between Music & Productivity Exist?:
Part of the reason this appears to work comes from one of the most-beloved bull***t management buzzwords from about a decade ago.
The truth about multi-tasking is that most people are terrible at it.
So much so, a new name was coined a few years ago for the few unicorns out there who can actually do it.
But they only represent about 2.5% of the population at-maximum.
Now perhaps there are a few who are Made and not Born, like high-level chefs who practice managing many things at the same time, over the course of decades.
And perhaps there are a few other professions where this type of training for your working-memory is common.
Jammed-Circuits And PS: You Are Not A Multi-Tasker:
But for most people, once a certain circuit in the brain is being used for something in a powerful fashion,
Everything else might have to wait.
And some circuits might interfere with the working of others.
For example, Math-Phobia is actually a real thing, because Anxiety shuts down many parts of the brain.
Those regions include Creativity, and also the parts that directly deal with things like Math.
And that brings us back to a few more specifics about the type of music in-question.
So What Seems To Make Classical Music Better For Productivity?:
Even Dr. Spelman suggests that if you get the type right, some music can actually be a noise-floor.
Or it can even be a type of “White Noise”.
This is particularly-important because it’s:
2) Avoids total silence
3) Masks out random low-level noises
3a) Keeps these from becoming an interruption to thought
4) Minimizes louder single-incident noises
4a) Like doors shutting, or things being dropped on the floor
5) Subconsciously-reinforcing a certain amount of environmental-control
6) Possibly occupying the distraction or nervous “busy-work” circuit of the brain
7) Short-Circuiting obsessive-worries because that “busy-work” circuit is occupied
This type of low-level mental-preoccupation is not multi-tasking, it’s more like light-distraction-optimized task focusing.
In movies, it’s been demonstrated very well in the feature film “Layer Cake”,
Where Colm Meaney’s character explains how he relaxes by absent-mindedly disassembling & reassembling a gun over and over.
Zen And Layer Cake’s Art Of Handgun Maintenance:
Dr. Spelman also goes on a little more explaining that as long as the music:
1) Is Instrumental
2) Has A Calm, Regular Beat
It can help us to both stay calm, and also focus on the task at-hand,
Fight-Or-Flight And The White Noise Of Mozart:
Without the side-effect of music that’s too-jarring which might send us into a small version of fight-or-flight.
Which, by-the-way also happens on a very small scale when a short interruption of noise happens.
It may be for only a split-second, and in low-amplitude, but your brain Is doing the same, “Wait! What’s that noise? Is it dangerous?” procedure it would do with anything unknown or interruptive.
If you wanted to give something similar a whirl on your own,
One example of good Classical focus-music (“Mozart Effect” or not) was done over on YT by Just Instrumental here:
No, The Study Is Not Perfect. But That May Not Matter:
So whether or not the study is big enough, well-formed enough, peer-reviewed, discloses the exact music they used (Piano Concerto #21 in CMaj?), or may have a conflict-of-interest because it was done in-conjunction with an online classical-music station,
It still suggests that there may be some type of music that actually isn’t an intrusion to productivity and creativity.
It may not be the loudest, flashiest, WWE professional-wrestler walk-on music in the history of mankind that makes you feel like you could punch through a brick-wall.
And furthermore, the type that actually does create the positive results in quality, quantity, & speed may turn-out to be counter-intuitive to many people’s natural preferences.
But this small work shows that some types of office background sound may actually produce positive productivity results, and Classical music might be among them.