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The Effect of Music on Performance of a Task

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An Experimental Psychological Study The Effect of Music on Performance of a Task Abstract In order to investigate whether music affected performance of a task, and experimental technique was used, variables were manipulated and data recorded. The aim of this study was to investigate whether different music styles affected the performance of a task. It was a novel experiment, only loosely based on previous research dating back to the 19th century. The method involved three groups of participants undertaking a test (solving thirty anagrams). One group had fast music in the background, one had slow music and the third performed it in silence. The participants were primarily selected via a systematic sample, but this would have been changed to an opportunity sample had some participants not turned up. It was hypothesised that there would be significant differences between a) fast and slow music, b) fast and no music and c) slow and no music. A two-tailed Mann-Whitney U test at a significance level of p=0.05 revealed that all three alternative hypotheses were accepted and null hypotheses rejected. The data collected illustrated that having slow music playing in the background improved performance of the task compared to performing it in silence, while fast music worsened performance. The implications of this study, its limitations and suggestions of follow up studies will be further discussed. Contents Introduction Social influence describes how other people around us can influence our actions. It is especially relevant in situations where groups of people are performing a task together, as discovered by Triplett in one of the first social influence experiments, conducted in 1898. He found that when children were asked to spin a fishing reel, it was spun faster when they were performing in groups than on their own. This effect was termed 'social facilitation', as the presence of others appeared to help, or facilitate, the person performing the task. ...read more.


Results Hypothesis One The following table illustrates the differences in results between the groups who had slow music and fast music in the background: Table 1: Score comparison between fast and slow music Table one shows that there was an evident difference between performance of the two groups, suggesting that having slow music playing in the background enhances performance, compared to fast music. In order to test the significance of the results, a Mann Whitney U test was performed. This test was chosen because of its suitability as a means of measuring difference between groups of results at an ordinal and unrelated level. The significance level of 0.05 (5%) was selected as it is accurate enough to give a good certainty of correctness, but is not too precise as to be excessive. A two-tailed test was decided upon as the background research proved to be inconclusive as to the expected outcome. Statistical Results: The Mann Whitney U test can be found in Appendix V. The calculated value of U was 30, which is greater than the critical value of 23. This shows that there was a significant difference between the fast and slow music conditions. Because of this, the null hypothesis is rejected. The raw results for all hypotheses can be found in Appendix IV. Hypothesis Two The following table illustrates the differences in results between the groups who had fast music and no music in the background: Table 2: Score comparison between fast music and none Table two shows that there was a small difference between performance of the two groups, suggesting that having no music playing in the background at all slightly enhances performance of a task, compared to having fast music playing. In order to test the significance of the results, a Mann Whitney U test was performed. The justification for this test was outlined in the results for hypothesis one. Again, a two-tailed test was decided upon as the background research proved to be inconclusive as to the expected outcome. ...read more.


This study will impact students and, in fact, anyone looking for ways to increase their concentration on work or quality of work etc. It was aimed at students like myself- to make aware the potential of music as an aid to revision/work. However, a study like this will be totally disregarded by someone who only likes and only works to one specific music type. My study simply suggests that a slower type of music may improve performance of a task, of which homework could be one. With more research on different music types, different age groups and different tasks, it could be ascertained as to what types of music affect what types of task etc., but without this further research my study cannot stand alone and be generalised to these other areas. This study could be seen as the first step into investigating the subject of music aiding performance. With more published research in this area, the effect of music could be made more publicly aware. As music is such a huge industry with an even bigger following, people could learn about the types of music that would help them possibly improve their work though their interest for music. Ideally, my study would act as this stepping stone to further research. There are many directions to go with follow up studies, whether focusing on music or not. A possible future study following on from this could focus on social facilitation as an influencing factor. Future researchers could perform the same test but remove influencing factors and compare the results. For example, if the prize was removed you may expect the level of competition to go down; if the time limit was removed you may expect the pressure on participants to go down, thus yielding higher mean results. This may also help to identify the extent to which social facilitation/loafing affects the performance of the task. Alternatively they could investigate the music aspect, trying many different types of music (rap, dance, classical etc.) and seeing which genres of music give better results. ...read more.

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