Investigating The Impact of Music on Attention

Investigating The Impact of Music on Attention
This study is concerned with cognitive psychology and attention. The human sensory system is continually bombarded with information from the surroundings, so to be able to function adequately much of it has to be ignored. Attention is defined as "the mental capacity for making choices between what is noticed and that which is ignored".11 The ability to maintain attention in the face of distracting/compelling stimuli is known as selective attention. People are subjected to a variety of information, but have the ability to attend selectively to aspects of this information. R.S. Baron?s (1986) distraction ? conflict theory may be applied to the question raised. It states that presence of others distracts a person, causing conflict over how to distribute attention. It can be assumed that is presence of others distracts a person and causes attention conflict, then the presence of another stimulus (i.e. music) may have a similar effect. This will be explored in this study. Moray et al (1969) studied selective listening. They explored how attention is distributed when two auditory messages are heard simultaneously. In the procedure, the participant wore earphones and a different message was played through each ear. The listener was asked to repeat/?shadow? one of the messages as they are played simultaneously. When the messages stopped, the listener was asked about the message that was not ?shadowed?. The findings showed that the listener was able to report only a very limited amount of information from the message not ?shadowed?. This was defined as the ?Cocktail Party Phenomenon? and describes how a person can selectively attend to one person?s voice even when another person next to them may be speaking at the same volume. This research relates to the experiment as it indicates our memory of separate auditory messages differs depending on which message we attend to and therefore particular stimuli may influence our ability to retain information. In a situation such as revision, attending to the ?wrong? stimulus (e.g. music) may reduce a student?s ability to retain the information they are supposed to be revising. Rationale -??? A common debate between students and parents is the effect of listening to music on studying ? whether the music distracts the attention of the student. The question that this study will approach is ?How do different types of music affect attention?? and will look at the relationship between auditory stimuli (various pieces of music) and attention.Baron?s theory provides an outline for the assumption that presence of external stimuli may disrupt the attention of a person and this is applicable in a number of situations in contemporary life such as studying, driving or working whilst listening to music. However, Moray and Cherry focus only on the effect of two simultaneous auditory stimuli, and not on how one stimuli may affect another task. Therefore this study will look at the link between an auditory stimuli and another task as a more equitable representation of daily human activity. Aim To investigate if music is a disruption to attention when studying, and if so, whether easy listening or pop-rock music is more disrupting? Hypothesis -???- Experimental hypothesis: Presence of music22 when taking a test will produce lower scores33 than those of a test taken in absence of music. Also, students listening to ?pop-rock? music will produce lower test scores than those listening to ?easy-listening? music44. Method Method and Design A laboratory experiment was used as it makes it easier to determine cause and effect (between the presence/type of music and test results) as the manipulation of the independent variable can be attributed to the change in the dependant variable. The independent measures design was used to eliminate order effects, in particular boredom and practice effects that would cause differences in the results. This also meant carry over effects from one condition to another could be eliminated and therefore the accuracy of the results is increased. Variables The independent variable is the type of music being played. In condition one, there was no music being played, which was operationalised by each student taking the test in silence. In condition two, easy listening music (without lyrics) was played. In condition three, pop-rock music (aggressive, lyrical) was played. In these conditions the variable was operationalised by either easy listening or pop-rock music being played throughout the test. The dependant variable was measured by comparing performance on the test that each student took. This was operationalised by asking each student to complete a test that asked him or her to count the number of times a given letter appeared in a paragraph. This method was used as it doesn?t rely on intelligence quotient to complete the test in the manner solving problems would do. Participants The target population of this experiment was year nine students (aged 13-14). Participants were selected by systematic sampling ? picking names every 3rd, 14th, and 21st student from each year nine form list. They were sent a message via school email and bulletin. The total was 30 students (1:1 sex ratio) of mixed ethnicity participating. Ten students were tested in each condition (1:no music, 2:easy listening, 3:pop-rock). This method was used to ensure there were enough participants to do the experiment, and to have replacements for people selected who didn?t attend. Apparatus Two pieces of music were used ? Moby ?Rushing? (easy listening, non-lyrical), and Linkin Park ?Points of Authority? (pop-rock, with lyrics), which were played on a loop until the test ended. These were used to cause disruption to the attention of the participant. Also used was a test paper with questions asking participants to count the number of a certain letter in a paragraph given55. This type of question was chosen as it requires no background knowledge of specific information, yet requires concentration. The scoring system was to count the total number of letters correctly identified per test, and to compare the results for the presence and type of music. Procedure The students selected were split into three groups on a first come first serve basis according to their gender (1:1 ratio per group). Each group was then taken to one of three rooms to take the test. Each room was for a different condition (1:no music, 2:easy listening, 3:pop-rock). All participants were given standardised instructions66 that outlined ethical considerations and the participants were told they had the right to withdraw at any timed during the procedure. Participants were instructed to count the number of a certain letter in the given paragraph. They were then given the test paper and carried out the task whilst the music that corresponded to the condition was played. After ten minutes the papers were collected in. They were then debriefed77 and the experiment was over. No participants withdrew or refused to take part. Controls In order to control extraneous variables the following measures were taken: 1 Experimental environment ? each group was taken to rooms similarly decorated. 2 Miscellaneous noises ? windows and doors were closed, and participants were instructed not to talk. Background noise (i.e. air conditioner) would not have any significant effect and was present in all rooms. 3 The experimenter in each condition was different as the tests occurred simultaneously. Each experimenter used standardised instructions and debriefing. If students asked any other questions the experimenters were given a standardised response ? "Please refer to the instructions where you should find all the information needed to complete the test". 5 Use of the independent measures design to avoid practice, fatigue and boredom effects. 4 Subjects were only exposed to one condition to reduce demand characteristics. Results Summary Table Summary table to compare the scores of each participant in each condition: Figure 1. Condition 1 (control ? no music) Condition 2 (easy listening) Condition 3 (pop-rock) Test scores of each participant(%) 70 68 40 72 62 48 64 54 45 78 50 51 56 60 60 63 61 43 65 48 42 62 52 40 75 56 52 65 51 44 Mean score 67% 56.2% 45.6% Median score 65.5% 55% 44.5% Range 22% 20% 20% Standard deviation88 6.65 6.37 6.33 Graphical Description of Results Figure 2. Comparing the Mean Scores in each Condition [image] [image] Summary Table Commentary Figure 1 shows that in comparison to condition one (67%), the average test score of both condition two (56.2%) and condition three (45.6%) were lower. However, in each condition the range of scores was high given the nature of the data (with a 22% range for condition one, and a 20% range in both condition two and three), and this is confirmed by looking at the sample deviation (6.65, 6.37, and 6.33 respectively), which is shown in Figure 3. Commentary of Graphics Figure 2 compares the mean and median score obtained in each condition. It can be seen that the greatest difference is between condition one (no music) and condition three (pop-rock) where the mean differs by 21.4% and the median differs by 21% with the higher scores obtained in condition one. It should also be noted that the difference between condition one and two is (mean) 10.8% and (median) 10.5%. This is almost half of the difference between condition one and three and therefore the results show significance. Relationship to the Hypothesis ?Experimental hypothesis: Presence of music99 when taking a test will produce lower scores1010 than those of a test taken in absence of music. Also, students listening to ?pop-rock? music will produce lower test scores than those listening to ?easy-listening? music1111." The results show the hypothesis to be correct. Having looked at the data carefully and compared the mean score in each condition, it can be concluded that there is a significant difference between the scores of participants in each condition. This fulfils the hypothesis in three ways. Firstly, the absence of music in condition one resulted in the highest scores. Secondly, there was a significant difference between the scores in condition one and condition two that depended on the type of music that was played. Thirdly, the pop-rock music produced the lowest scores. These scores are the result of the music played in each condition and therefore it can be assumed that the music caused disruption to the attention of the individuals. Discussion Validity Validity is the extent of which the experiment is free of design faults (internal validity), and appears to be measuring what it is supposed to be (face validity). The variables were operationalised in this experiment by using a test requiring concentration (not intelligence) to complete. It may be argued that if some participants are dyslexic or have poor command of English this may lead to problems recognising the letters. However, presuming that the standard of English in a year nine student is quite good, and that any dyslexic participants would produce anomalous results (which have not been identified in this situation) it may be said that using this test is a reliable method of measuring any disruption to attention as those problems would be reflected in the test scores. Therefore this experiment has face validity. However, the internal validity is debateable as the representative sample (30 people) was very small. The ecological validity in this experiment was low as the experiment took place in a controlled environment and the test the participants did is unlikely to be given in a real life situation. Yet this method gave greater control over variables, which should enable more accurate results to be obtained. Also, the classroom setting was realistic as this is where many of the students? classes would take place. Improvement of Validity To give the experiment increased face validity the participants could be asked to fill in a short questionnaire that enquires if the participant is dyslexic or has a poor standard of English, and those that are dyslexic or have poor English skills could be replaced. This would mean that there are fewer reasons that the test scores may reflect anomalous results. However, it may decrease the ecological validity as the sample would no longer be a true representation of the target population. Having a larger sample population can increase the internal validity. By doing this the scores can be generalised to a wider group of people and therefore the implications of the study can be applied to a larger population. The ecological validity of the experiment could be improved by imposing the three separate conditions in real life situations such as end of topic assessment tests (or similar). However, the results of the tests could not be used to assess the students? understanding of the topic as the test itself would effectively have been disrupted by the music played. Reliability Reliability is the likelihood of the same results being obtained if the experiment was repeated. This study has external reliability as the same test was used in each condition, and the standardised instructions mean that the study is highly replicable. However, one reliability fault may be that it cannot be guaranteed the participants understood the instructions given, as the standardised instructions and answer meant that participants were only given limited information about the experiment. Another may be that it cannot be guaranteed that the participants performed as they would do in a normal situation - they may try to do better to impress the experimenters, or alternatively they may not bother, for example if they think the experiment is a waste of their time. Improvements of Reliability Repeating the experiment would validate the results ? it would give a comparison where anomalies could be identified. Also, using matched pairs design would mean that the groups tested in each condition are more similar. However, this would require many pre-tests and perhaps a larger population from which to select a sample. The problems with reliability outlined previously may be reduced by using a real life classroom situation to do the test, with any effect on the results (such as increased scores) a consequence of the participants being more likely to perform as they would in a real life situation. Implications of the Study The results showed a clear connection between the presence and type of music and the attention of the participants. This can be related to Baron?s distraction-conflict theory, which stated that presence of alternative stimuli causes disruption to attention. The pop-rock music had lyrics and was well known therefore it would be more distracting to them as it may have hedonistic relevance. This study also reflect Moray?s experiment relating to selective listening ? if the participant was not able to distribute their attention accordingly, the conflict between the two stimuli would make it difficult to concentrate. This is reflected in the lower test scores. Group A had no auditory distraction, again tying in with Baron?s distraction-conflict theory as there were no distractions in the room. Participants would find it easier to choose to block out music such as easy listening than they would pop-rock as the pop-rock had lyrics. Lyrics are another distracting stimuli, so the participant would have to actively ?ignore? both the lyrics and the music. By comparing this situation to the ?cocktail party phenomenon? it can be sent that Colin Cherry?s analogy of the occurrence can also be applied here. Generalisation of findings The findings can be generalised to the target population ? students in year nine at kgv School. This can be assumed as there are no anomalous results, and the total number of participants (30) makes up approximately 10-20% to students in year nine, based on the assumption that there are between 150 and 300 students in the year at any time. To generalise to all year nine students in Hong Kong, the sample would have to be taken from a variety of year nine students from schools around Hong Kong. The test may have to be changed, as the students in Chinese-taught schools may not have the same letter recognition capabilities as someone in an English-taught school. Instead of using a paragraph, the test could be compiled of symbols (e.g. bitch) where participants would have to count the number of a certain symbol. Application of study to everyday life -????????????????? The main application of this study is to school life. Students studying at home could use this information as a study guide, and choose not to listen to certain music when studying. This study may also relate to other school activities, for example video presentations that are often used to accompany lessons or assemblies. By applying the results of this study it may be assumed that as the students are concentrating on the video, words that are being spoken by the teacher (or speaker in assembly) are not properly attended to (or vice-versa), as the two stimuli create conflict as to how attention should be distributed. Alternatively, it could also be used in other areas of life such as encouraging quieter offices (so as attention can be focused on work and conflict between attention and distractions in the surroundings is limited). References == baron, R.S. (1986). Distraction ? conflict theory: Progress and Problems. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.) Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 19). New York: Academic Press. colin cherry. Cocktail Party Phenomenon. Microsoft Reference Library 2002. Microsoft Corporation 1993-2001. moray, N. (1969). Selective Listening. Attention: Selective Processes in Vision and Hearing. London: Hutchinson. Bibliography advanced psychology through diagrams. Grahame Hill. Oxford University Press. 1999. oxford english dictionary 9TH edition. ?Attention?. Oxford University Press 1996: bca. psychology for A-level. Mike Cardwell. HarperCollins Publishers Limited. 2000. writing UP coursework. How to write up AS psychology coursework. Psychology Department kgv 2003. Appendix List of appendices: Appendix 1: Example of test Appendix 2: Standardised instructions Appendix 3: Debriefing Appendix 4: Original calculations of standard deviation Standardised Instructions ===== Thank you for participating in the Year 12 Psychology experiment. The results of this experiment will be the basis of our A-level coursework. You will be asked to count the number of letters in a paragraph of writing whilst music is playing in the background (except group one, where the test will be taken in a quiet room). The test will take ten minutes and the total time you will be here is approximately fifteen minutes after all the question papers are collected. The results will be seen by the experimenters (Gary Wong and Anika McCrohan), and you may ask to see them when they have been analysed. Everything you write will be confidential and anonymous. At any point before, during or after the experiment you may withdraw from the experiment and your results will be destroyed. Please do not write your name on the test paper. Please do not talk during the experiment. (Distribute the test papers, which include a copy of these instructions) Please begin (start music). Debrief === Thank you for taking part. The results of the experiment will be used to identify connections between the presence/type of music and the number of correctly counted paragraphs in order to establish the effect of music on attention. If you have any further questions please give me a call.

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