By Amisha Padnani, The New York Times, 8/11/12
Some workers like to listen to music when they find themselves losing focus. They may also plug in their earbuds to escape an environment that’s too noisy — or too quiet — or to make a repetitive job feel more lively.
In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma, said Dr. Amit Sood, a physician of integrative medicine with the Mayo Clinic.
People’s minds tend to wander, “and we know that a wandering mind is unhappy,” Dr. Sood said. “Most of that time, we are focusing on the imperfections of life.” Music can bring us back to the present moment. “It breaks you out of just thinking one way,” said Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami.
Dr. Lesiuk’s research focuses on how music affects workplace performance. In one study involving information technology specialists, she found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood.
“When you’re stressed, you might make a decision more hastily; you have a very narrow focus of attention,” she said. “When you’re in a positive mood, you’re able to take in more options.”
Dr. Lesiuk found that personal choice in music was important. She allowed participants in her study to select whatever music they liked and to listen as long as they wanted. Those who were moderately skilled at their jobs benefited the most, while experts saw little or no effect. And some novices regarded the music as distracting….
Dr. Sood, at the Mayo Clinic, said it takes just 15 minutes to a half-hour of listening time to regain concentration. Music without lyrics usually works best, he said.
See also in ClassWise:
- “Don’t Listen to Music While Studying”
- “For Better Grades, Try Bach in the Background”