Instrumental Music Design: Influence on Task Performance

Instrumental Music Design: Influence on Task Performance

Brayan Mauricio Rodriguez (Universidad Icesi, Colombia), Carlos Arce-Lopera (Universidad Icesi, Colombia), Ana M. Arboleda (Universidad Icesi, Colombia), Javier Diaz-Cely (Universidad Icesi, Colombia), Julian Correa (Musicar SAS, Colombia) and Pablo Montoya (Musicar SAS, Colombia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9069-9.ch015


The authors describe the importance of music design for background instrumental music and the effect on task performance. Three instrumental music conditions that differ in tempo, articulation, mode, and musical meter were tested using a complex task scenario. The task was performed using a complicated web-interface that required users to focus their attention and perform several specific interactions for successfully finishing the task. All the interactions with the interface were recorded. Moreover, a mixed assessment of the emotional state, perceived task performance, and music perception was asked to participants upon task completion. Experimental results revealed that music design has complex effects on task performance and emotion. Also, the results revealed important trends that can help design music environments to control frustration when confronted to complex and cognitively demanding tasks.
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The need to understand the effects of music on our behavior and cognitive processing has become increasingly important (Hallam, Price, & Katsarou, 2002). For example, Hallam el al. developed a study in which children aged from 10 to 12 were evaluated in their school under arousing, unpleasant, calming or relaxing background music. The music labeling was the product of a previous categorization effort made by children of the same age range after several listening sessions. In the experiments, they used mood, arousal, pleasure, emotion, and nostalgia as affective variables. They found that calming music had positive effects on math problems, memory, and pro-social behavior. Whilst arousing, aggressive, and unpleasant music had the opposite effect. Also, they found that the music used in school as a tool to improve learning and behavior could also enhance musical knowledge and thinking. These findings suggest that the effects of music on task performance are mediated through its effects on arousal and mood.

Music affects the listener conduct and emotion, but this condition depends on variables of music design. An increased tempo, for example, has mostly a positive impact in customer feelings (arousal) (Michel, Baumann, & Gayer, 2017) and is consistently related with faster actions (Kämpfe, Sedlmeier, & Renkewitz, 2011). Recently, Michel et al. wrote a systematic literature review in which they studied the effects of the presence or absence of in-store music in multiple service settings. They took into account moderating influences (i.e. age, gender, time of day, and service setting), the design of the music (i.e. physical dimension, preferential dimension, and genre), and customer response as characterised by affect (i.e. emotion, perception of time, and evaluation/satisfaction of service) and behavior (i.e. time spent in-store, purchase intention, sales volume, and patronage behavior). They found that, specifically, in the supermarket setting, an increased musical tempo has both positive and negative effects on customer's emotions (arousal) – depending on the moderating variable gender (male or female). Among the various studies compiled in their review, there are some which address customer behavior in relation to in-store music, focusing on four variables: customer's actual time spent in a store, sales volume, customer's purchase intention (expressed by the intention to purchase a good or service in the future), and customer patronage (revisit or loyalty) behavior. They found that an increased musical tempo has mostly a positive impact on customer emotions.

The analysis of the effects of background music on general behavior, cognitive processing and emotion revealed that tempo of background music has a strong impact on behavior: faster tempo consistently correlates with faster behavior (Kämpfe, Sedlmeier, & Renkewitz, 2011). In this respect, background music had a small but positive impact on sports performance. However, apparently, on average, background music slightly impaired memory processes and text understanding; reading tasks might be more disturbed by vocal than by instrumental music. One potential approach used for explaining this impact assumes that an increase in the activation of one brain hemisphere decreases the activation of the other hemisphere.

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