I often ask people, particularly those who work in the same sort of blogging field as me, what environment helps get the creative juices going? Do they work best in complete silence or do they prefer some background music to create an atmosphere. Well, I’ve done some digging to find out a little more about the relationship between sounds and concentration.
Fast Company suggests that from their research, any background noise at all lowers overall performance for most people – with the worst type of noise being intermittent talking. However, what this study doesn’t look into is the mood of the person hearing the noise – they are only looking at performance levels and concentration.
Research by Resonics correlates with Fast Company but goes a step further and suggests that noise stresses us out – “Loud sounds and prolonged exposure to certain noises trigger physiologic stress responses in our bodies – such as spikes in blood pressure and heart rate.” Interestingly, Resonics state that multitasking becomes more difficult which can be especially annoying if you’re like me writing, reading, emailing and researching all at once most days.
Multitasking is also a very important skill when driving, a study called ‘blame it on the boogie’ by Manchester based UK car leasing firm All Car Leasing found that 82% of drivers had some kind of noise going on from their in car entertainment, be it radio, their own music, podcasts or audiobooks. If what Fast Company and Resonics say its true then we’re potentially increasing the chances of an accident if we try to put some noise on, even worse if we have passengers in the car gassing away.
However, a counter argument by Chad Grills suggests that “… listening to music with lyrics may actually help people working on repetitive or mundane tasks, perhaps because the distracting nature of lyrical music can provide a kind of relief from the monotony of boring work.” Applied Ergonomics said the same “people doing repetitive tasks worked more efficiently when background music was played.”
So who’s right and who’s wrong? Sure, it seems very logical that conversations in the background distracts and makes driving and working harder but does music do the same? Are there some genres that distract and then there are others that don’t? When I was revising for my university exams I found silence distracting, but if I put music on I’d sing along! I got around this by playing classical music. These days I ask Google to play me concentration music.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this – what do you listen to when you work/drive and what is your favourite concentration atmosphere? Please let me know in the comments below.