Music while you work: the differential distraction of background music on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts



The current study looked at the distracting effects of ‘pop music’ on introverts' and extraverts' performance on various cognitive tasks. It was predicted that there would be a main effect for music and an interaction effect with introverts performing less well in the presence of music than extraverts. Ten introverts and ten extraverts were given two tests (a memory test with immediate and delayed recall and a reading comprehension test), which were completed, either while being exposed to pop music, or in silence. The results showed that there was a detrimental effect on immediate recall on the memory test for both groups when music was played, and two of the three interactions were significant. After a 6-minute interval the introverts who had memorized the objects in the presence of the pop music had a significantly lower recall than the extraverts in the same condition and the introverts who had observed them in silence. The introverts who completed a reading comprehension task when music was being played also performed significantly less well than these two groups. These findings have implications for the study habits of introverts when needing to retain or process complex information. © 1997 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.