THE EFFECTS OF MUSIC AND NOISE UPON VERBAL AND VISUOSPATIAL TASK PERFORMANCE AMONG MALE COLLEGE STUDENTS

MITCHELL PHILIP FLAUM, Fordham University

Abstract

In recent years, the effects of music and noise upon performance has become an area of concern both in the academic as well as industrial fields. Past research has yielded data that were often inconclusive or contradictory. The diversity of results has been explained by researchers depending upon the music that is heard, the difficulty of the material to be read or studied, and the study habits of the person being tested.^ The present study investigated the effects of familiar versus unfamiliar music, and music with words versus music without words, on verbal and nonverbal tasks. Furthermore, it sought to compare the effects of music versus noise on performance. Finally, it sought to study the effects of subjective variables in relation to music, on performance. One hundred and twenty right-handed male undergraduates were voluntarily recruited. The subjects were assigned to one of six treatment conditions; namely, the following: (a)Familiar music with words, (b)Familiar music without words, (c)Unfamiliar music with words, (d)Unfamiliar music without words, (e)Noise, (f)Silence (Control Group). The tests used as measures of the dependent variable were from the Kit of Factor-Referenced Cognitive Tests (Educational Testing Service, 1976). The factors were Logical Reasoning, Verbal Comprehension, Spatial Orientation, and Visualization. The first two were measures of verbal performance, while the latter two were measures of visuo-spatial performance. Subjects were further subdivided into those given the verbal tests, and those given the visuo-spatial tests.^ Results showed that subjects in the various music conditions did somewhat better than subjects under the noise or control groups. However, the differences were not statistically significant. The one exception was the group who heard unfamiliar music with words, and who performed significantly better than the noise or control group on the Card Rotations Test, a visuo-spatial task. The lack of negative effects of the background music and noise supports the position that given a situation of complex stimuli, it is possible to gate out irrelevant stimuli and put one's maximal attention on the task at hand. Furthermore, the slightly positive but not significant direction of the data in favor of the music conditions suggest that music may place the individual in a state of increased arousal and thus prime him for increased mental activity. However, the positive effects of music may be less evident on verbal than non-verbal tasks, and less on complex than on simple tasks.^ The results of the Music Interest Questionnaire, a subjective rating scale, demonstrated that the subjects' enjoyment of the music was not related to performance on the tests used. Results also showed that subjects who believed that the music was distracting did not perform significantly worse than subjects who felt the music was not distracting. Thus, it may be concluded that a person's subjective beliefs and feelings toward background stimulation has little correlation with actual performance on the ongoing task.^ Furthermore, while not statistically significant, subjects who studied with music tended to perform better on visuo-spatial tasks than did subjects who usually did not listen to music while studying. In addition, subjects who played an instrument or who were part of a band or orchestra tended to do better both on verbal as well as visuo-spatial tasks. These results suggest that active involvement with music may allow an individual to habituate more rapidly to background sound, thus avoiding any debilitating aspects of background stimulation on ongoing task performance. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

MITCHELL PHILIP FLAUM, "THE EFFECTS OF MUSIC AND NOISE UPON VERBAL AND VISUOSPATIAL TASK PERFORMANCE AMONG MALE COLLEGE STUDENTS" (January 1, 1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8111544.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8111544

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