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Eye Movements and Reading Comprehension While Listening to Preferred and Non-preferred Study Music

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  • Nicolaus Copernicus University; Universität Regensburg; University of the Free State

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In the present study 24 university students read four different texts in four conditions: (1) while listening to music they preferred to listen to while studying; (2) while listening to music they did not prefer to listen to while studying; (3) while listening to a recording of noise from a café; and finally (4) in silence. After each text they took a reading-comprehension test. Eye movement data were recorded for all participants in all conditions. A main effect for the reading-comprehension scores revealed that the participants scored significantly lower after they had been listening to the non-preferred music while reading, compared with reading in silence. No significant effects were found between the other conditions. No significant differences between conditions were found for the traditional eye movement measures in reading (fixation duration, saccadic amplitude, regressions, and first-pass and second-pass reading time). It is suggested that this result is a consequence of participants not being aware that their reading processes are disrupted by a non-preferred musical background. They do not make the necessary changes to the processes involved in reading required to compensate for increased cognitive load. The results are discussed in relation to study/reading habits, extraversion, arousal and working memory capacity.
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Psychology of Music
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DOI: 10.1177/0305735610387777
2012 40: 339 originally published online 10 March 2011Psychology of Music
Roger Johansson, Kenneth Holmqvist, Frans Mossberg and Magnus Lindgren
non-preferred study music
Eye movements and reading comprehension while listening to preferred and
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Eye movements and reading
comprehension while listening
to preferred and non-preferred
study music
Roger Johansson
Department of Cognitive Science, Lund University, Sweden
Kenneth Holmqvist
Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, Sweden
Frans Mossberg
Sound Environment Centre, Lund University, Sweden
Magnus Lindgren
Department of Psychology, Lund University, Sweden
Abstract
In the present study 24 university students read four different texts in four conditions: (1) while
listening to music they preferred to listen to while studying; (2) while listening to music they did not
prefer to listen to while studying; (3) while listening to a recording of noise from a café; and finally
(4) in silence. After each text they took a reading-comprehension test. Eye movement data were
recorded for all participants in all conditions.
A main effect for the reading-comprehension scores revealed that the participants scored signi-
ficantly lower after they had been listening to the non-preferred music while reading, compared with
reading in silence. No significant effects were found between the other conditions. No significant
differences between conditions were found for the traditional eye movement measures in reading
(fixation duration, saccadic amplitude, regressions, and first-pass and second-pass reading time). It is
suggested that this result is a consequence of participants not being aware that their reading processes
are disrupted by a non-preferred musical background. They do not make the necessary changes to
the processes involved in reading required to compensate for increased cognitive load. The results are
discussed in relation to study/reading habits, extraversion, arousal and working memory capacity.
Keywords
eye movements, music and cognition, music distraction, reading comprehension
Psychology of Music
40(3) 339–356
© The Author(s) 2011
Reprints and permission: sagepub.
co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0305735610387777
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Corresponding author:
Roger Johansson, Centre for Language and Literature, Lund University, Box 201, 221 00 Lund, Sweden.
[email: Roger.Johansson@ling.lu.se]
Article
340 Psychology of Music 40(3)
Introduction
The ability to understand information contained in a text is, in many ways, a prerequisite for
success, for example in educational environments. Students read large amounts of literature to
acquire knowledge and to be able to pass courses and examinations. The reading process
involved is often a very cognitively-demanding task and there are a multitude of variables that
may affect how well the written information is assimilated. Students often read and study in
environments where certain distractions, voluntary or not, compete for their attention. Typical
situations include studying while listening to music, watching television or listening to people
talking in a café. As early as 1935, Cantril and Allport reported that 68% of the students they
investigated listened to the radio while studying. Today, portable players have made it possible
to listen to music anywhere, anytime. For example, Furnham, Trew and Sneade (1999) found
that 90% of the 142 participants in their study listened to music while studying, and Ransdell
and Gilroy (2001) reported that the majority of the college students in their study listened to
music when using their computer for schoolwork. As part of the preparations for the present
study, 150 students answered a questionnaire about their study habits; 81% of them said that
they sometimes listened to music while studying. People often have strong beliefs about how
they are affected in these situations. A very common claim is that they read and study better
with certain music. In the preparatory survey, the majority (77%) of those who often listened
to music while studying also believed that they studied better with music.
The interplay between reading and listening to music has been addressed in several studies
and from different angles. In many respects, however, these studies have yielded different and
conflicting findings, indicating that reading to music is a very complex and difficult phenom-
enon to study. The effects of music include that it arouses deep emotions (e.g., Juslin & Sloboda,
2001), influences mood (e.g., Eich & Forgas, 2003) and affects cognitive performance (e.g.,
Furnham & Allass, 1999). What is more, account must be taken of the task to be performed
and the context in which the music is encountered as well as many characteristics intrinsic to
the music: its loudness, tempo (bpm), form, complexity, variety, familiarity, genre, whether it
is vocal or instrumental, etc. Previous studies have typically focused on one or more of these
aspects and compared them with a silent condition. Kiger (1989) studied reading comprehen-
sion in the conditions of “low-information-load” music, “high-information-load” music and
silence. Information load was calculated as a function of the amount of loudness, variety,
complexity and tonal range in the music. Kiger found that listening to low-information-load
music improved reading comprehension compared with both silence and listening to high-
information-load music. Furnham and Allass (1999), however, did not find any difference in
how participants performed in a reading-comprehension task when listening to music of dif-
ferent complexity with regard to tempo, repetition and instrumental layering. Fogelson (1973)
reported that popular instrumental music impaired reading comprehension in 8th graders.
Iwanaga and Ito (2002) found that both vocal and instrumental music impaired performance
in a verbal-memory task.
Several studies have also considered background noise instead of music (e.g., Hygge,
2003; Hygge, Evans, & Bullinger, 2002) and found various deleterious effects on cognitive-
task performance. Clark and colleagues (2006) studied how exposure to noise from aircraft
and road traffic affected reading comprehension in 9–10-year-olds at 89 schools in the
Netherlands, Spain and England. They found that aircraft noise impaired reading compre-
hension but that road traffic noise did not. Furnham and Strbac (2002) found no significant
difference between background music and office noise as regards their impact on reading
Johansson et al. 341
comprehension, proposing that this might be because the music and the noise used in their
study were very similar in complexity.
The impact of music on people may also vary greatly between individuals, especially its
potential to change arousal levels. Eysenck (1967) argues in his theory of personality that
extraverts and introverts differ in how much external stimulation they require to reach an opti-
mal level of arousal. Introverts experience greater arousal in response to lower-intensity stimu-
lation than extraverts, and they experience an inhibition of excitation when their optimal level
of arousal is exceeded (which thus happens at an earlier stage than for extraverts). Therefore,
introverts typically exhibit an active aversion to situations of external stimulation (such as
music) whereas extraverts actively seek out these situations. Background music would thus be
expected to have a more negative effect on task performance in introverts than in extraverts.
Several studies have indeed confirmed that introverts are more negatively affected by music
and noise during cognitively demanding tasks (e.g., Cassidy & MacDonald, 2008; Daoussis &
McKelvie, 1986; Furnham & Allass, 1999; Furnham & Bradley, 1997).
Besides personality type, another aspect reported as worthy of consideration is personal pref-
erences. Etaugh and Ptasnik (1982) found that individuals who usually studied without back-
ground music scored higher on a reading-comprehension test while studying in silence than in
the presence of music, whereas the case was the opposite for those who usually studied with
background music. However, it is likely that those of their participants who usually did not
listen to music while studying had a more introverted personality, and that those who usually
did listen to music while studying had a more extraverted personality. For example, Daoussis
and McKelvie (1986) reported that extraverts studied in the presence of music twice as often as
introverts. Chamorro-Premuzic with colleagues have also in a number of cross-cultural studies
(British, American, Spanish and Malaysian students) investigated how personality types cor-
relate with different uses of music (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2007; Chamorro-Premuzic,
Gomà-i-Freixanet, Furnham, & Muro, 2009; Chamorro-Premuzic, Swami, Furnham, & Maakip,
2009). Results indicate that those who use music as a background to other activities (e.g.,
studying and working) are more likely to be extraverted.
Another factor that may influence the impact of listening to music while being engaged in
another task is working-memory capacity. Working memory has limited resources (Baddeley &
Hitch, 1974), meaning that different processes may compete for these resources. It has been
proposed that reading comprehension depends on maintaining phonological representations
of the written words in working memory while their meaning is derived (e.g., Baddeley, 1979,
2003; Levy, 1977). Background music or noise could occupy some of the available working-
memory resources so that the person can no longer fully attend to the reading process.
Individual differences in working-memory capacity might, therefore, be important for reading-
comprehension performance in the presence of background noise.
Aim of the study
The aim of the present study is twofold. First, it investigates how reading comprehension is
affected by different kinds of music and a certain type of background noise, and it examines
whether the commonly-held belief that certain music improves reading comprehension is actu-
ally true. Second, while most studies have focused only on determining whether certain music
or noise affects reading comprehension, this one also investigates how the reading process
might be affected by music and noise.
342 Psychology of Music 40(3)
To be able to investigate if the belief that certain music improves reading comprehension is
correct, we have chosen not to focus on a specific kind of music or certain aspects of it, but on
personal preferences. In this study, reading will therefore be performed while participants listen
to music they prefer to listen to while studying/reading and while they listen to music they
absolutely do not prefer to listen to while studying/reading. Given that students also very com-
monly study in cafés or similar environments, reading performance will also be studied in the
presence of recorded noise from a café. Finally, reading will be studied in complete silence.
Personal preferences as regards the audial environment for reading have been studied before
(Daoussis & McKelvie, 1986), but there the choice of preferred music was limited and related
more to general music preferences. The music was not explicitly chosen as music the partici-
pants preferred to study/read to. In this study the participants were completely free to choose
the music they preferred to study/read to and were also able to specify what kind of music they
did not prefer to study/read to. To our knowledge, no previous studies have investigated per-
sonal preferences as regards music during reading to this extent.
To be able to study the reading process as it unfolds we used eye-tracking technology, which
is well established in reading research and makes it possible to study reading in terms of both
reading patterns and information processing (cf. Rayner, 1998). Examples of previous uses to
which eye tracking has been put include the study of reading in terms of poor readers (e.g.,
Olson, Kliegel, & Davidson, 1983), reading strategies (e.g., Hyönä, Lorch, & Kaakinen, 2002),
speed-reading (e.g., Just & Carpenter, 1987), different reading materials (e.g., Rayner &
Pollatsek, 1989), repeated readings of the same text (e.g., Hyönä, 1995; Schnitzer & Kowler,
2006) and reading during writing (Johansson, Wengelin, Johansson, & Holmqvist, 2010). To
our knowledge, this is the first study to use eye tracking to examine the ongoing process of read-
ing against a background of music and noise.
Individual differences are not a main focus of this study. Nevertheless, considering previous
research on arousal (e.g., Juslin & Sloboda, 2001), introversion/extraversion (e.g., Cassidy &
MacDonald, 2008; Daoussis & McKelvie, 1986; Furnham & Allass, 1999; Furnham & Bradley,
1997), working memory capacity (e.g., Baddeley, 1979, 2003; Levy, 1977) and music and
reading habits (e.g., Etaugh & Ptasnik, 1982) these aspects were considered in post hoc-analyses.
Pupil size was used as a measure of arousal (e.g., Partala & Surakka, 2003), the Eysenck
Personality Questionnaire – Revised (EPQ-R) personality test (Eysenck, Eysenck, & Barrett,
1985) was used to test participants for extraversion/introversion and the operation-span test
(OSPAN) (Turner & Engle, 1989) was used to test them for working memory capacity. Finally, a
questionnaire about music and study habits was developed to test participants for these factors.
Eye tracking in reading studies
Fixation duration, saccadic amplitude and regressions are the three major general eye-movement
measures of relevance to reading (Rayner, 1998). Fixation duration is the time during which
the eye is fixated on a word; a large body of research indicates that this measure can be used as
an indicator of cognitive processing; that is, longer fixation duration indicates a more cogni-
tively demanding task (e.g., Reichle, Pollatsek, Fisher, & Rayner, 1998). An average fixation in
reading lasts about 200–250 ms (Rayner, 1998). Saccadic amplitude is the length of the rapid
movements between fixations in which virtually no information at all is extracted. Average
saccadic amplitudes in reading are typically 7–9 letter spaces. Readers with reading disabilities
and poor readers typically have shorter saccadic amplitudes (e.g., Olson et al., 1983). About
10–15% of all saccades are regressions: they move backwards on the same line, move to
previous lines or move within the word currently being fixated on. It is believed that short
Johansson et al. 343
within-word regressions occur when the reader is having difficulty in lexically activating a
word, whereas longer regressions occur when the reader does not understand the text (Rayner,
1998). A reading task with high cognitive demands would typically result in longer fixation
durations and more regressions.
It is also common to analyse eye movements in reading in terms of first-pass and second-pass
reading time (cf. Rayner, 1998). First-pass reading time is the sum of the fixations during the
initial reading of the text, and second-pass reading is the sum of the fixations during re-reading
of the text, or parts of it. Reading texts with the purpose to remember their content would typi-
cally result in a relatively large amount of second-pass reading time.
Apart from these three major eye-movement measures in reading, the size of the pupil is also
of interest. Pupil dilation has been used as an indication of arousal, emotion, stress and cogni-
tive workload (e.g., Hess & Polt, 1960; Partala & Surakka, 2003; Pomplun & Sunkara, 2003).
Larger pupil size indicates more arousal and/or higher cognitive demands. Partala and Surakka
(2003) found that participants listening to both positive (baby laughing) and negative (baby
crying) sounds had larger pupils than when listening to neutral sounds (office noise). However,
no significant difference was found between positive and negative sounds. Ratings of arousal
revealed that negative and positive sounds were experienced as equally arousing. Partala and
Surakka (2003) therefore argue that the magnitude of the pupil response in the presence of
sound is determined by the amount of emotional arousal.
Hypotheses and expectations
Since previous research has shown very diverse results when it comes to reading comprehen-
sion in the presence of music and noise it is hard to predict how preferred and non-preferred
music as well as café noise will affect reading comprehension. Nevertheless, we propose the fol-
lowing hypotheses:
(1) Reading comprehension is improved by the preferred music;
(2) Reading comprehension is impaired by the non-preferred music and the café noise.
We expect that any noise conditions that turn out to impair reading comprehension will make
the reading process more cognitively demanding. If any of the noise conditions turns out to
impair the reading process, we therefore expect to find the following tendencies in the eye-
movement data:
(a) Fixation durations will be longer;
(b) There will be more regressions;
(c) There will be more second-pass reading.
Since poor readers typically have shorter saccadic amplitudes in reading (e.g., Olson et al.,
1983), a tendency in that direction would also be likely if the reading process is impaired.
Method
Participants
Twenty-four university students, 12 females and 12 males, participated in the experiment.
All participants reported normal or corrected-to-normal vision (with contact lenses or glasses).
344 Psychology of Music 40(3)
All participants were native speakers of Swedish. The mean age of the participants was
27.9 years (SD = 7.7).
Data
Eye-movement data were recorded for the participants while they were reading four different
texts in four different conditions:
(1) Reading while listening to music the participant preferred to listen to while studying/
reading;
(2) Reading while listening to music the participant did not prefer to listen to while studying/
reading;
(3) Reading while listening to recorded noise from a café;
(4) Reading in silence.
The four texts were randomized and balanced for order so that all of them were read the
same number of times in the four conditions. After each text the participants took a reading-
comprehension test consisting of four multiple-choice questions, each with five options. The
reading-comprehension test was always performed in silence. Additionally, each participant
completed a personality test (EPQ-R), was tested for working-memory capacity (Operation
span [OSPAN]), and completed a questionnaire about his or her music and study habits.
Stimuli, apparatus and materials
We first selected a number of texts that had been used in the Swedish Scholastic Assessment
Test (SweSAT). This is a standardized test used to gain admission to higher education in
Sweden, and includes a reading-comprehension module with texts designed to be as compara-
ble as possible in regards of difficulty. The subject areas of the texts chosen were administration,
economics and sociology. We computed several measures of readability (text length, LIX,
1
vocabulary diversity (vocd) and lexical density) for 20 different candidate texts and identified
the four most comparable ones; that is, no significant differences were found for any of the read-
ability measures.
The texts were shown to the participants on a 19” Samsung GH19PS monitor with the reso-
lution set to 1024×768 pixels and with a physical size of 380×300 mm. The texts were pre-
sented in a large Ariel font (21 points) and with 1.5 spacing. Each text consisted of 10–11 pages
(screens) with about 1,000 words (min: 918, max: 1091) and was followed by four multiple-
choice questions, each with five options (only one option was correct). The participants were
seated 0.67 metres from the monitor.
The music or noise was played from speakers placed in front of the participant next to the
monitor. All noise and music played during the experiment had been normalized to the same
sound level in the software Adobe Audition 3.0. On average the sound level for the noise and
music varied between 60–70 dB and never exceeded 80 dB (measured in the position where the
participants were seated). The café noise was recorded in a real café and consisted of a relatively
homogeneous buzz, but with frequent and audible conversations between people.
Eye tracking was performed during the reading of all texts with a SMI iView X Hi-Speed
1250 Hz system. Presentation of stimuli and communication with the eye tracker were per-
formed with Matlab and the Psychophysics Toolbox Version 2 (PTB-2; Brainard, 1997).
Johansson et al. 345
The OSPAN test (Turner & Engle, 1989) was performed without eye tracking at the computer.
In this test participants were required to judge as quickly as possible if mathematics operations
were false or correct while trying to remember a set of unrelated words. First a mathematics
operation was presented on the screen and, when the participant had judged it as true or false,
a single syllable word was shown at the centre of the screen for exactly one second. The set of
mathematics operations and words were presented in random order for two-item sets up to five-
item sets in three trials. For example, a three-item set might have been:
(1/1) – 1 = 0? JOB
(5×4) + 3 = 22? BOAT
(3×1) – 3 = 1? CAR
After each item-set the participants were required to type the words in the presented order. The
total score from each correct word (maximum: 42) was used as the working memory capacity
measure.
The EPQ-R personality test (Eysenck et al., 1985) was performed by pencil and paper. This
test measures personality in the psychometric scales of psychoticism, extraversion, neuroti-
cism and lie. The test consists of 100 yes or no questions. Twenty-three of these questions
belong to the extraversion scale. For example, “Do you enjoy meeting new people?”. The score
(maximum: 23) was used as the extraversion measurement.
The questionnaire about music and reading habits was performed by pencil and paper. For
example, they were to judge if they preferred to study in silence (yes/no/doesn’t matter), how
often they listened to music while studying (often/sometimes/rarely/never), and if they felt
they studied better with music (yes/no).
Procedure
The participants were given a cinema ticket in exchange for participating in the experiment. All
participants had been told to bring 20–30 minutes of music that they preferred to listen to
while studying/reading. Their choices ranged from instrumental classical music to different
kinds of modern pop, rock or rap music, with or without vocals (all choices are listed in Appendix A).
The participants had also told the experiment leader what kind of music they absolutely did not
prefer to listen to while studying/reading. The experiment leader selected typical music in those
categories and brought it to the experiment. Again the choices varied a great deal (all choices
are listed in Appendix A), but common non-favourites were heavy metal, gangster rap, techno
and schlager.
2
All participants began the experiment by performing the working-memory test (OSPAN).
While the participants were doing that, the experiment leader had time to normalize the vol-
ume of the music brought by the participants to ensure that it would be played at the same
volume as the non-preferred music and the café noise. The participants were then introduced
to the eye-tracking equipment and were seated as comfortably as possible. The experiment
leader informed them that they were about to read four different texts and that, immediately
after reading each text, they would answer four multiple-choice questions about that text.
They were also informed that they would read one of the texts to their own preferred music, one
to the non-preferred music, one to recorded noise from a café and one in silence, and that they
346 Psychology of Music 40(3)
would always answer the questions in silence. They did not, however, know the order of the
four conditions. They were also informed that they could only move forward in the texts (by
pressing the mouse), that they had a maximum of 20 minutes to finish each text with the cor-
responding questions, and that if the time was about to run out (which it never actually did in
the experiments) the experiment leader would inform them when five minutes remained.
The eye tracker was calibrated before the first text and re-calibrated if necessary before each
following text. The experiment leader was never present in the room while the participant per-
formed the reading or answered the questions, but always entered the room between the texts to
check that everything was in order and to see if a re-calibration was needed. The eye-tracking
system requires participants to hold their head still during reading, but the participants were free
to move their head and stretch their neck while answering the questions about the texts (when
no eye-movement data were being recorded) and in between texts. This meant that the system
almost always needed re-calibration before the next text and condition were introduced. When
all four texts (with the corresponding questions) had been completed, the participants rated
how disruptive they had found the non-preferred music: 1 = Not disruptive at all; 2 = Slightly
disruptive; 3 = Disruptive; 4 = Very disruptive; 5 = Neutral/Don’t know. Finally, all partici-
pants answered the questionnaire about their music and study habits (Appendix A) and com-
pleted the personality questionnaire (EPQ-R).
Analysis
Reading-comprehension scores (average proportion of correct responses) and eye-movement
data were analysed using a within-subjects analysis of variance (ANOVA) with condition
(preferred music/non-preferred music/café noise/silence) as the within-subjects factor. Dep-
endent variables in the eye-movement data were the three major measures of eye movements
in reading – fixation duration, saccadic amplitude and regressions, as well as the proportion
of second-pass reading. Fixation durations and saccadic amplitudes were also broken down
depending on whether they belonged to the first-pass or second-pass reading time. Regressions
were separated into regressions on the same line, regressions to previous lines and regres-
sions within words. Additionally, on the basis of the results by Partala and Surakka (2003),
pupil size was used as a measure of arousal and was analyzed as a dependent variable within
the conditions. If the assumption of homogeneity of variance was violated, Friedman and
Wilcoxon analyses were performed.
To test the results for underlying individual differences, each analyzed factor in each condi-
tion was correlated (Bivariate Spearman’s Rho) with the extraversion dimension in the EPQ-R
scores, the OSPAN scores and with the answers from the questionnaire about music and study
habits. Furthermore, the rating as to how disruptive the participants had found their non-
preferred music was correlated with each analyzed factor in that condition.
Results
Reading comprehension
For the reading-comprehension score, a main effect of condition was found (F(3,66) = 3.191,
p = 0.03). Mean scores and standard deviations in all four conditions are shown in Table 1. The
average score for Swedish students on this part of the SweSAT is about 55–60 percent (Wallin &
Eriksson, 2002). Bonferroni post-hoc tests revealed that the participants scored significantly
Johansson et al. 347
lower (p < 0.01) in the non-preferred music than in silence. No significant difference was found
between preferred music and silence or between café noise and silence, and no significant dif-
ferences were found among the three noise conditions.
Reading process: eye-movement data
Table 2 (a–d) shows means and standard deviations for eye-movement data in all four condi-
tions. No significant main effects for fixation durations or saccadic amplitudes were found for either
first-pass or second-pass reading. Neither did proportion of second-pass reading time, regressions on
the same line, regressions to a different line or regressions within words result in any main effects.
Arousal: pupil size
For the arousal measure of pupil size (the horizontal radius of the pupil), there was a main effect
of condition (F(3,66) = 3.122, p = 0.03). Mean scores and standard deviations in all four
Table 1. Average scores on the reading-comprehension test; standard deviations in brackets
Condition
Reading comprehension Preferred music Non-preferred music Café noise Silence
Scores (%) 45.8 (35.9) 40.2 (21.0) 50.0 (29.5) 62.5 (24.5)
Table 2. Average values for eye-tracking data; standard deviations in brackets
a. First-pass reading: fixation duration and saccadic amplitude
Condition
First-pass reading Preferred music Non-preferred music Café noise Silence
Fixation duration (ms) 204 (19) 202 (18) 202 (21) 199 (18)
Saccadic amplitude (letter spaces) 6.9 (3.8) 6.9 (2.1) 7.2 (4.6) 6.4 (1.4)
b. Second-pass reading: proportion thereof, fixation duration and saccadic amplitude
Condition
Second-pass reading Preferred music Non-preferred music Café noise Silence
Proportion of second-pass reading (%) 42.9 (10.6) 42.4 (10.1) 41.9 (10.0) 39.9 (9.1)
Fixation duration (ms) 200 (17) 200 (17) 199 (22) 198 (17)
Saccadic amplitude (letter spaces) 5.1 (1.6) 5.5 (2.2) 5.1 (1.1) 5.0 (1.2)
c. Regressions as mean percentages of all saccades
Condition
Regressions Preferred music Non-preferred music Café noise Silence
Proportion to same line (%) 15.1 (4.2) 14.8 (4.5) 14.6 (4.7) 15.6 (4.3)
Proportion to different line (%) 2.5 (1.3) 2.4 (1.0) 2.5 (1.1) 2.6 (1.4)
Proportion within word (%) 9.8 (3.5) 10.4 (3.2) 10.1 (2.7) 10.1 (4.1)
348 Psychology of Music 40(3)
conditions are shown in Table 3. Bonferroni post-hoc tests revealed that, compared with the
silent condition, the pupil was significantly larger for preferred music (p = 0.004) and non-
preferred music (p = 0.03) but not for the café noise. No significant differences were found
between the three noise conditions.
Individual differences
From the scores in the EPQ-R test it was revealed that there was a negative correlation for the
extraversion dimension and the reading comprehension scores for preferred music (r = −0.463)
and silence (r = −0.406). There was also a positive correlation for the extraversion dimension
and within word regressions (r = 0.481) in the preferred music condition, and a negative cor-
relation for the extraversion dimension and the saccades in all conditions (preferred: r = −0.433;
non-preferred: r = −0.441; café: r = −0.484; silence: r = −0.446).
No significant correlations were found between either the scores on the reading-comprehension
test or any of the variables in the eye-movement data and the OSPAN scores and the answers
to the questionnaire. Nor were there any correlations between the degree of disruptiveness
ascribed by the participants to the non-preferred music and either their scores on the reading-
comprehension test or their eye-movement data for that condition.
Additionally, since 12 of the participants had chosen instrumental music and 12 had cho-
sen music with vocals as their preferred music, the relationship between this factor and the
reading-comprehension scores and the eye-movement data was also investigated. However, no
significant correlations were found for this factor either.
Discussion
The objective of this study was twofold. First, it investigated how reading comprehension was
affected by different kinds of music and background noise. The investigated conditions were
music the participants preferred to study/read to, music they did not prefer to study/read to,
café noise and silence. Second, eye-tracking was used as a method to investigate how the read-
ing process was affected by these conditions. Individual differences were not a main focus of this
study. But based on previous findings, the reading-comprehension scores and the eye-tracking
measures were correlated post hoc with the extraversion dimension from the EPQ-R personal-
ity test (Eysenck et al., 1985), with the working memory capacity score from the operation-
span test (OSPAN) (Turner & Engle, 1989) and with the participants’ music and study habits
(as reported in the questionnaire). Furthermore, pupil size was used as a measure of arousal
(Partala & Surakka, 2003).
The most notable finding from the reading comprehension scores revealed that, compared
to reading in silence, participants performed significantly worse when reading to the non-
preferred music. For the preferred music and the café noise the scores were not significantly
Table 3. Average values for pupil size; standard deviations in brackets
Condition
Pupil size Preferred music Non-preferred music Café noise Silence
Horizontal radius (pixels) 31.3 (4.5) 31.3 (5.0) 31.3 (5.1) 30.1 (4.4)
Johansson et al. 349
different compared to silence. We therefore confirm the hypothesis that non-preferred music
impairs reading comprehension and reject the hypothesis that a person’s reading compre-
hension is improved by listening to music that he or she prefers to study/read to. It should,
however, be noted that the standard deviations for the reading-comprehension scores are
large, especially for the preferred music condition. As stated before, there are a great many
characteristics intrinsic to music that may have different implications for how people are
affected by it, such as tempo (bpm), form, complexity, variety and genre, and whether it is
instrumental or vocal. It is therefore possible that certain music might be suitable during
reading (in the sense of improving reading comprehension) for certain people. Additionally,
since this study was carried out in shorter sessions, we do not know how the music would
affect the readers in longer sessions.
Unexpectedly, none of the three major eye-movement measures in reading – fixation dura-
tion, saccadic amplitude and regressions – showed any significant main effects of condition in
either first-pass or second-pass reading. The proportion of second-pass reading also did not
show any significant effects of condition. Our expectations of longer fixation durations, more
regressions, more second-pass reading and possibly shorter saccadic amplitudes, factors associ-
ated with impaired reading processes, were therefore not supported.
For the arousal measure of pupil size it was shown that both preferred and non-preferred
music evoked higher levels of arousal compared to silence. No significant difference was found
between café noise and silence, or between the noise conditions. Assuming that the non-
preferred music engaged the participants in a negative way and the preferred music in a posi-
tive way, this is consistent with previous findings that negative and positive sounds are
experienced as equally arousing (Partala and Surakka, 2003). This measure cannot, however,
disambiguate negative experiences from positive experiences or say anything about emotional
states. A more thorough investigation of how the noise conditions affected emotion and mood
could have revealed other factors that may have influenced the results. For example, the non-
preferred music is likely to have induced moods and emotions that affected the reading process
negatively. Nonetheless, high “disruptiveness ratings” for the non-preferred music did not cor-
relate with low reading-comprehension scores for that condition.
The results for extraversion revealed that there was a negative correlation between extra-
version and the reading comprehension scores in the preferred music and the silent condition;
that is, the group with a higher score in the extraversion dimension performed weaker in the
reading comprehension. We suggest that this correlation does not say anything about how
background music and extraversion interacts, but is rather an indication that those with a
higher score on the extraversion dimension consisted of less skilled readers. It was also revealed
that there was a positive correlation between extraversion and within-word regressions in the
preferred music condition and a negative correlation between extraversion and the saccadic
amplitude in all conditions; that is, the group with a higher score in the extraversion dimension
performed more regressions within words during the preferred music and performed shorter
saccades in general. Since frequent within-word regressions and shorter saccades tend to be
typical of poor readers (e.g., Olson et al., 1983; Rayner, 1989), these findings strengthen the
argument that those with a higher score in the extraversion dimension were in fact less skilled
readers. A study where participants are selected on the basis of extremes in the EPQ-R distribu-
tion of the extraversion dimension will have to be conducted before any claims can be made in
this respect. In this study only one participant had an EPQ-R score below eight, and only four
scored above 19 (the lowest possible score is 0 and the highest is 23), which suggests that the
included participants constituted a rather homogeneous group who were not at the extremes
350 Psychology of Music 40(3)
of extraversion or introversion (cf., Cassidy & MacDonald, 2008; Furnham & Allass, 1999;
Furnham & Bradley, 1997).
Finally, no significant correlations were found on the basis of the OSPAN test or the ques-
tionnaire about study and music habits. All the participants were university students, and it
could therefore be argued that the reason why there were no correlations with regard to OSPAN
results was that the participants constituted a rather homogeneous group with relatively high
working-memory capacity (OSPAN scores: mean = 27.6, SD = 5.9, max = 42). However, previ-
ous research seems to show that working-memory capacity is not extremely important for
reading comprehension in the presence of aural distraction. For example, Martin, Wogalter
and Forlano (1988) reported that the decisive factor for reading comprehension is the ability to
understand meaning, not the ability to maintain phonological representations of written words
in working memory.
As regards the questionnaire, it is notable that there were no correlations between reading-
comprehension scores in the preferred music condition and the participants’ perception as to
whether they studied better with music. This suggests that peoples’ personal beliefs about con-
ditions which facilitate reading do not correspond to the actual effects.
Nonetheless, there are other individual factors that might interact with noise conditions in
an experiment of this kind. Other examples include motivation and reading ability. Motivation
is hard to measure, but it is a reasonable assumption that motivation will have decreased
towards the end of the experiment. However, no correlations were found between scores on the
reading-comprehension test and the order in which the texts were read, which could be inter-
preted to indicate that the participants remained equally motivated throughout the experiment
even though nothing can be said about their relative levels of motivation. We also tried to revise
the eye movement analyses by classifying high and low achievers on the basis of the reading
comprehension scores in all conditions (median splits). But these analyses offered no further
insights; that is, no significant differences in regards of fixation durations, saccadic amplitudes
or regression were found in these analyses either.
Our results could be criticized for being an effect of state-dependent memory (e.g., Blaney,
1986); that is, the results could be perceived as an artefact deriving from the fact that, in three-
fourths of cases, the reading process was performed in a different condition (with background
music/noise) from the reading-comprehension test (in silence). Nevertheless, if you are study-
ing for a real examination you are not allowed to listen to any kind of music during the actual
test. Based on this fact we made the choice to have participants’ answer the reading compre-
hension in silence.
But how should we interpret the eye-movement data, where no significant differences were
found between the silent condition and the non-preferred music condition for any of the three
major eye-movement measures during reading? The results from the reading-comprehension
scores clearly show that the reading process is disrupted by the non-preferred music. One inter-
pretation would be that the readers are indeed not aware that their reading is affected and
impaired by the non-preferred music. They do not make any changes to their reading process
because they are simply not conscious that their reading comprehension deteriorates in the
presence of the non-preferred background music. To obtain the same level of reading compre-
hension as in silence, they would probably have to make some changes to compensate for the
increased cognitive load. For example, it would seem appropriate to slow down (longer fixation
durations) and to do more re-reading (more regressions and more second-pass reading). It
should be noted that the current study included an experimental restraint in that the partici-
pants were not able to go back to previous pages. This greatly reduced their opportunities to
Johansson et al. 351
re-read. It is possible that re-reading of certain parts of the texts could have compensated for the
loss of reading comprehension.
One problem with the interpretation that conscious changes must be made to the reading
process in order for reading comprehension to improve is that this assumes that we have a great
deal of control over our eye movements while we are reading. The extent of eye-movement con-
trol in reading is an issue of debate (cf. Starr & Rayner, 2001), but there is much empirical evi-
dence in favour of the assumption that fixation duration is automatically related to the amount
of time required to process a word (e.g., Rayner, 1998; Reichle, 1998). Therefore it seems
unlikely that the reading-comprehension impairment should be related to the lexical activa-
tion of words or sentences; the derivation and storage of the meaning and content of a text
seems a more probable candidate.
It is often argued that reading comprehension requires you to maintain phonological repre-
sentations of written words in working memory while the meaning is derived and stored in
long-term memory (e.g., Baddeley, 1979, 2003; Levy, 1977). A possible explanation for why
reading comprehension is impaired could therefore be that the background noise reduces the
ability to maintain phonological representations in working memory. Since no significant cor-
relations were found between the OSPAN scores and the reading-comprehension scores, this
explanation was not supported. However, as mentioned previously, the participants consti-
tuted a rather homogeneous group with relatively high working-memory capacity. Therefore,
this study does not attempt to make any strong claims in this respect. Nevertheless, in the study
by Martin and colleagues (1988), where it was reported that reading comprehension decreased
significantly with different kinds of speech in the background, it was concluded that the degree
of disruptiveness was determined not by the phonological properties of the background speech
but by the semantic ones. The authors concluded that the key to reading comprehension is not
the ability to remember exact words and sentences, but rather the ability to understand the
meaning of words and sentences. These findings and interpretations are consistent with a study
by Boyle and Coltheart (1996), which investigated how irrelevant noise, such as singing,
speech and instrumental music, affected comprehension of sentences at different levels of syn-
tactic complexity and working memory in terms of the ordered recall of five-word lists. They
found that the ability to recall the word lists was impaired by the irrelevant vocal noise but
found no effect for instrumental music. No impact on sentence comprehension was found for
any of the noise conditions.
Further studies will have to be conducted to identify the processes that are impaired by back-
ground noise during reading. Even so, however, our finding that the eye-movement measures
were unaffected by the disruptive condition of non-preferred music together with the findings
of Martin and colleagues (1988) and Boyle and Coltheart (1996) do indicate that the impair-
ment of reading comprehension is not related to the maintenance of information in working
memory, but rather to the processes involved in understanding meaning and content as well as
to the ways in which this information is stored in long-term memory.
Outlook
This is the first study to investigate eye movements when reading under exposure to different
kinds of music and noise. This study was designed to get a general idea of how eye movements
are affected by background music/noise during reading. Future research will include more
controlled studies focusing on specific details of both the texts and the background noise. For
example, we will investigate how the reading process is affected by noise of increasing volume
352 Psychology of Music 40(3)
and the differential impact of exposure to speech versus instrumental music. Detailed analyses
of eye movements in regards of syntactic and semantic aspects of the texts will also be consid-
ered in the future.
Acknowledgements
Thanks to Stipendiejuryn för Sparbanken Finn Framtidsstiftelses Forskarstipendium i musik for financing
this project, to Högskoleverket (Swedish National Agency for higher Education) for providing the
texts, to Marcus Nyström for programming help and of course to all the participants who made this
study possible.
Notes
1. A Swedish readability index (Björnsson, 1968) based on the proportion of long words and the number
of words per sentence.
2. Sweet, highly sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody or light pop tunes (Wikipedia, 2009).
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Appendix A. Preferred and non-preferred music
Participant Preferred music Non-preferred music
1. The Field – From here we go sublime
(tracks: “Over the ice”, “A paw in my
eyes”)
The Game – Doctor’s advocate (tracks: “Lookin
at you”, It’s okay (one blood)”, “Compton”,
“Remedy”)
2. Westlife – Back home (tracks: “Home”,
“Us against the world”, “Something
right”)
Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
3. Aretha Franklin – Lady soul (tracks:
“Chain of fools”, “Money won’t change
you”, “People get ready”, “Niki Hoeky”)
Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
4. Mazzy star – Among my swan (tracks:
“Disappear”, “Flowers in December”)
Westlife – Unbreakable – The greatest hits Vol.
1 (tracks: “Swear it again”, “If I let you go”,
“Flying without wings”, “I have a dream”)
5. Arovale – Atol Scrap (tracks: “Nonlin. R”,
“Tascel_7”, “Thaem nue”)
Masonna – Frequency LSD (tracks 1–5)
6. The Field – From here we go sublime
(tracks: “Over the ice”, “A paw in my
eyes”)
Absolute Schlager (tracks: Kikki Danielsson
– “Bra vibrationer”, Linda Bengtzing – “Alla
flickor”, Pernilla Wahlgren – “Picadilly Circus”,
Herreys – “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley”, Lotta Engberg –
“Fyra bugg och en coca-cola”)
7. Leonard Cohen – Songs of love and hate
(tracks: “Avalanche”, “Last year’s man”)
Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
8. Philip Glass – The Essential (tracks:
“Facades”, “Metamorphosis four”)
Absolute Schlager (tracks: Kikki Danielsson
– “Bra vibrationer”, Linda Bengtzing – “Alla
flickor”, Pernilla Wahlgren – “Picadilly Circus”,
Herreys – “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley”, Lotta Engberg –
“ Fyra bugg och en coca-cola”)
9. Mozart – Piano concertos nos. 23 & 27
(Conductor: Alexander Titov)
Absolute Schlager (tracks: Kikki Danielsson
– “Bra vibrationer”, Linda Bengtzing – “Alla
flickor”, Pernilla Wahlgren – “Picadilly Circus”,
Herreys – “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley”, Lotta Engberg –
“ Fyra bugg och en coca-cola”)
(Continued)
Johansson et al. 355
Appendix A. (Continued)
Participant Preferred music Non-preferred music
10. Dean & Britta – L’Avventura (tracks:
“Night nurse”, “Ginger snaps”)
Masonna – Frequency LSD (tracks 1–5)
11. Brian Eno – Discreet music (tracks:
“Discreet music”)
The Game – Doctor’s advocate (tracks: “Lookin
at you”, It’s okay (one blood)”, “Compton”,
“Remedy”)
12. Sigur Rós – ( ) (tracks 1 & 2) Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
13. Brian Eno – Discreet music (tracks:
“Discreet music”)
Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
14. Bob Dylan – Blood on the tracks (tracks:
“You’re a big girl now”, “Idiot wind”)
Nightwish – Century child – (tracks: “Bless the
child”, “End of all hope”, “Dead to the world”,
“Ever dream”)
15. The National – Boxer (tracks: “Fake
empire”, “Mistaken for strangers”,
“Brainy”)
The Game – Doctor’s advocate (tracks: “Lookin
at you”, It’s okay (one blood)”, “Compton”,
“Remedy”)
16. Miles Davis – Kind of blue (tracks: “So
what”)
Nightwish – Century child – (tracks: “Bless the
child”, “End of all hope”, “Dead to the world”,
“Ever dream”)
17. Boards of Canada – The campfire
headphase (tracks: “Into the rainbow”,
“Chromakey Dreamcoat”, “Satelite
Anthem Icarus” )
Absolute Dansband (tracks: Lasse Stefanz – “Du
försvann som en vind”, Thorleifs – “Och du
tände stjärnorna”, Torgny Melins – “Nu är det
lördag igen”, Shanes – “Vem får följa dig hem”,
Vikingarna – “Leende guldbruna ögon”)
18. Coldplay – X&Y (tracks: “Square one”,
“What if”)
Joey Beltram – (tracks: “Energy flash”, “Rising
sun”, “Resurgence”)
19. Belle and Sebastian – The boy with the
arab strap (tracks: “It could have been
a brilliant career”, “Sleep the clock
around”, Is it wicked not to care?”)
Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
20. Dire Straits – Brothers in arms (tracks:
“So far away”, “Money for nothing”)
Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
21. Björk – Medúlla (tracks: “Pleasure is all
mine”, “Vökuró”, “Öll Birtan”)
The Game – Doctor’s advocate (tracks: “Lookin
at you”, It’s okay (one blood)”, “Compton”,
“Remedy”)
22. Enigma – The Cross of changes (tracks:
“Second chapter”, “The Eyes of truth”,
“Return to innocence”)
Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
23. Bach – The Brandenburg concertos
(tracks: “concerto 1”)
Slayer – Christ Illusion (tracks: “Catalyst”,
“Skeleton Christ”, “Eyes of the insane”,
“Consfearacy”)
24. Mozart – Piano concertos nos. 23 & 27
(Conductor: Alexander Titov)
Absolute Schlager (tracks: Kikki Danielsson
– “Bra vibrationer”, Linda Bengtzing – “Alla
flickor”, Pernilla Wahlgren – “Picadilly Circus”,
Herreys – “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley”, Lotta Engberg –
“ Fyra bugg och en coca-cola”)
356 Psychology of Music 40(3)
Roger Johansson is a PhD student in cognitive science, Lund University.
Kenneth Holmqvist is an associate professor and technical manager for the Humanities
Laboratory, Lund University.
Frans Mossberg is a researcher at the division of musicology, Lund University.
Magnus Lindgren is an associate professor in neuropsychology, Lund University.
... While noise influences reading fluency, it is unclear whether noise affects reading comprehension: visual noise studied in [9] did not impede readers' comprehension but auditory noise showed both detrimental and null effects on comprehension accuracy across studies. For instance, comprehension was hampered by background unintelligible speech and music with lyrics that were in the same language as the reading task in [10] and under non-preferred background music in [11]. However, comprehension was not affected when the noise was intelligible speech in native and foreign languages in [5], under bar-type noise such as music and voices in [11,12]. ...
... For instance, comprehension was hampered by background unintelligible speech and music with lyrics that were in the same language as the reading task in [10] and under non-preferred background music in [11]. However, comprehension was not affected when the noise was intelligible speech in native and foreign languages in [5], under bar-type noise such as music and voices in [11,12]. ...
... Participants. Seventy-one adult monolingual speakers of Russian (38 women; M age = 22 years; SD = 4.9; range 20-40; mean years of education = 14, range [11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] took part in the experiment with auditory noise. All participants reported normal or corrected-to-normal vision and hearing, and no history of neurological, psychiatric or language disorders. ...
Article
Full-text available
Noise, as part of real-life communication flow, degrades the quality of linguistic input and affects language processing. According to predictions of the noisy-channel and good-enough processing models, noise should make comprehenders rely more on word-level semantics instead of actual syntactic relations. However, empirical evidence supporting this prediction is still lacking. For the first time, we investigated whether auditory (three-talker babble) and visual (short idioms appearing next to a target sentence on the screen) noise would trigger greater reliance on semantics and make readers of Russian sentences process the sentences superficially. Our findings suggest that, although Russian speakers generally relied on semantics in sentence comprehension, neither auditory nor visual noise increased this reliance. The only effect of noise on semantic processing was found in reading speed under auditory noise measured by first fixation duration: only without noise, the semantically implausible sentences were read slower than semantically plausible ones. These results do not support the predictions of the study based on the noisy-channel and good-enough processing models, which is discussed in light of the methodological differences among the studies of noise and their possible limitations.
... Los estudios previos presentados hasta aquí han examinado la comprensión de lectura por medio de una prueba de comprobación de lectura. Sin embargo, otros estudios que han medido la comprensión de lectura mientras se escucha música han utilizado técnicas psicolingüísticas y neurolingüísticas, como el registro de movimientos oculares (Johansson et al. 2011), la electroencefalografía (EEG) y la frecuencia cardiaca (Que et al., 2021). Dichas investigaciones se describen en la siguiente sección. ...
... Entre los pocos estudios que, hasta el momento, han incluido el eye tracker para examinar en particular el proceso cognitivo de la lectura con música de fondo, se encuentran el de Johansson et al. (2011) y el de Que et al. (2021. En el estudio de Johansson et al. (2011), los participantes comprendieron peor bajo la condición de música no preferida. En específico, los participantes obtuvieron un 40% de la comprensión de lectura con la música no preferida, un 46% con la música preferida, un 50% con el ruido de un café de fondo y un 63% en la condición de silencio. ...
... En específico, los participantes obtuvieron un 40% de la comprensión de lectura con la música no preferida, un 46% con la música preferida, un 50% con el ruido de un café de fondo y un 63% en la condición de silencio. En la prueba completada, es decir, el Examen Sueco de Evaluación Académica (SweSAT), la puntuación promedio de los universitarios suele ser de 55 a 60% (Johansson et al., 2011). En relación con el procesamiento lingüístico (i.e., medidas de movimientos oculares, como la duración de las fijaciones, la amplitud sacádica o la extensión de los brincos entre las fijaciones durante la primera pasada de la vista ("gaze duration") y la proporción de las regresiones en la misma línea, líneas diferentes y dentro de una misma palabra), que también se midió en dicho estudio, no se reportó un efecto principal. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
¿Prefiere estudiar con música de fondo o sin música de fondo? A partir de Hall (1951),algunos investigadores se han preguntado si la música promueve o inhibe la comprensión de lectura. Las habilidades cognitivas, incluyendo el procesamiento lingüístico, la memoria, la atención, la concentración y la comprensión de lectura, se han examinado con música de fondo. En los estudios, han variado algunas de las variables, como la metodología, el género musical, la habilidad observada, la frecuencia con que los participantes estudian con música, la familiaridad con los sonidos y el sexo de los participantes. Los resultados sobre el efecto de la música han diferido: en ocasiones ha sido positivo (e.g.,Cockerton et al., 1997; Hall, 1951; Mohan & Thomas, 2020) y en otros, negativo (e.g., Anderson, 2007; Etaugh & Michals, 1975; Perham & Currie, 2014). Hasta el momento, no hemos encontrado estudios previos que investiguen la comprensión de lectura en la interacción con el género musical de la salsa, a excepción de nuestro estudio preliminar. Por lo tanto, esta investigación midió la comprensión de lectura (i.e., el entendimiento de la idea principal y de los detalles) mientras se leían cuatro textos diferentes en cuatro condiciones: (i) con salsa conocida de fondo, (ii) con salsa desconocida de fondo, (iii) con salsa instrumental de fondo y (iv) sin música de fondo, en cuarenta y dos estudiantes universitarios subgraduados. El estudio empleó la plataforma de investigación conductual en línea FindingFive y pruebas de selección múltiple para medir la comprensión de lectura (Anderson, 2007; Johansson et al., 2011; Mohan & Thomas, 2020; Perham & Currie, 2014). Do you prefer to study with or without music? Starting with Hall (1951), some researchers have wondered whether music promotes or inhibits reading comprehension. Different cognitive abilities, including language processing, memory, attention, concentration, and reading comprehension have been studied with background music. Variables such as the methodology, the genre of music, the ability examined, the frequency in which participants study with music, the familiarity with sounds, and the participants’ gender have varied among studies. The findings of the effect of background music have been mixed. Sometimes, they have been positive (e.g., Cockerton et al., 1997; Hall, 1951; Mohan & Thomas, 2020). Other times, they have been negative (e.g., Anderson, 2007; Etaugh & Michals, 1975; Perham & Currie, 2014). At the moment, we have not found studies that examine the interaction between reading comprehension and salsa music, except our preliminary study. For this reason, this study measured the reading comprehension (i.e., understanding the main idea and the details) of forty-two undergraduate students with four different texts in four background conditions: (i) while listening to a known salsa song, (ii) while listening to an unknown salsa song, (iii) while listening to an instrumental salsa song and (iv) with no music. This study was conducted using FindingFive, an online platform for behavioral research and multiple-choice tests to evaluate reading comprehension (Anderson, 2007; Johansson et al., 2011; Mohan & Thomas, 2020; Perham & Currie, 2014).
... This seems reasonable considering that, in Huang and Shih (2011), participants rated their preference levels to the played songs without the context, i.e., how much they like each song in general. Meanwhile, Johansson et al. (2011) implied the difficulty of choosing optimal songs to be listened to while working themselves. Specifically, Johansson et al. (2011) investigated participants' levels of emotional arousal while listening to songs they picked as those they want or do not want to listen to while working on their choice. ...
... Meanwhile, Johansson et al. (2011) implied the difficulty of choosing optimal songs to be listened to while working themselves. Specifically, Johansson et al. (2011) investigated participants' levels of emotional arousal while listening to songs they picked as those they want or do not want to listen to while working on their choice. Consequently, they found that the levels measured via the participants' pupil size were significantly elevated more than that of a silent environment regarding both the songs they wanted and did not want to listen to. ...
Article
Full-text available
Many people listen to music while working nowadays. However, conventional recommendation systems that are designed for playing songs matching user preferences cannot be applied for such a situation. This is because previous research showed that listeners’ concentration can be negatively affected not only by music that listeners strongly dislike but also by music that the listeners strongly like. Therefore, when we consider a recommendation system to be used while working, it is desirable to avoid both songs the user likes very much and songs the user dislikes very much. Given this background, we propose FocusMusicRecommender , a system designed specifically for recommending music to listen to while working. It summarizes songs automatically and plays them successively in order to enable users to give not only “dislike (very much)” feedback via a “skip” button but also “like (very much)” feedback via a “keep listening” button. The feedback is then combined with the users’ concentration level that is estimated from their behavioral history during the playback of the corresponding song, which allows the system to obtain preference information that distinguishes between “like” and “like very much” without burdening the user who is working. Based on the preference information, the system estimates the preference levels of unplayed songs and prioritizes the songs for subsequent playback by also considering the user’s current concentration level. Our experiments showed the validity and effectiveness of the proposed method, including the accuracy of the concentration level estimation. Moreover, our user study verified the suitability of the recommendation results from both the observed behavior and obtained comments of the participants.
... Thompson et al. [15] discovered that loud and fast background music led to reduced text comprehension, while soft and slow music did not make a difference in this regard. Moreover, the distracting effect has been shown to depend on whether or not the music was preferred as study music [16]. Participants scored significantly lower in a reading comprehension test when they had listened to non-preferred study music while reading than when they had read in silence. ...
Article
Full-text available
Numerous studies indicate that listening to music and reading are processes that interact in multiple ways. However, these interactions have rarely been explored with regard to the role of emotional mood. In this study, we first conducted two pilot experiments to assess the conveyed emotional mood of four classical music pieces and that of four narrative text excerpts. In the main experiment, participants were asked to read the texts while listening to the music and to rate their emotional state in terms of valence, arousal, and dominance. Subsequently, they rated text and music of the multisensory event in terms of the perceived mood, liking, immersion, and music-text fit. We found a mutual carry-over effect of happy and sad moods from music to text and vice versa. Against our expectations, this effect was not mediated by the valence, arousal, or dominance experienced by the subject. Moreover, we revealed a significant interaction between music mood and text mood. Texts were liked better, they were classified as of better quality, and participants felt more immersed in the text if text mood and music mood corresponded. The role of mood congruence when listening to music while reading should not be ignored and deserves further exploration.
... In both conditions, each participant could choose the song for their reading task, from two options. Two clickable buttons were displayed on the screen, one for each song, in which participants could listen to a 30-second excerpt prior to selecting to which one they would listen whilst reading the hypertext, whose rationale lies on the mixed results in terms of musical preference in comprehension (Johansson et al., 2012;Pereira et al., 2011;Perham & Currie, 2014). This procedure was adopted to simulate the real-life task of selecting a song of their preference for reading. ...
Article
Full-text available
The ubiquity of multitasking has led researchers to investigate its potential costs for reading and learning (Clinton‐Lisell, 2021). While some studies have not shown detrimental effects of multitasking for reading comprehension (Bowman et al., 2010; Cho et al., 2015; Pashler et al., 2013), one particular study has found a benefit of multitasking (Tran et al., 2013). These results, nevertheless, do not converge with the findings of recent meta-analyses, which have suggested both a negative effect of multitasking for reading comprehension (Clinton‐Lisell, 2021), as well as the disruptive effects of listening to lyrical music while reading for comprehension (Vasilev et al., 2018). Previous research seems to converge with the theories of how working memory copes with the complexity of reading as a process, since several subprocesses must be orchestrated so that the ultimate goal of reading – the construction of a mental representation – is fully achieved (Tomitch, 2020). In addition to that, no previous study has investigated reading as a multilevel construct in which both literal and inferential comprehension (Alptekin & Erçetin, 2010; Kintsch, 1998) is assessed in a multitasking setting. With that in mind, we investigated whether working memory capacity, measured by the Self- Administrable Reading Span Test (Oliveira et al., 2021), predicts proficient bilinguals’ performance in literal and inferential comprehension, by means of comprehension questions (Pearson & Johnson, 1978) and reading times, under a multitasking setting in two conditions – listening to lyrical music (experimental) as opposed to listening to non-lyrical music (control). Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that working memory capacity significantly predicted inferential, but not literal comprehension nor reading times, and only when participants were listening to lyrical music. Results are discussed both in terms of the effects of multitasking on reading comprehension as well as the role of working memory in language comprehension.
... Nevertheless, the current research clearly demonstrates that lyrics can interfere with word-level reading processes. This is consistent with evidence from eye-tracking, where distraction at the word level was also observed in eye fixations when readers were exposed to irrelevant speech (Cauchard et al., 2012;Hyönä & Ekholm, 2016;Meng et al., 2020;Yan et al., 2018) and music (Zhang et al., 2018; but see Johansson et al., 2012). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
It has been suggested that listening to music during reading may be distracting, but the empirical results have remained inconclusive. One limitation of previous studies is that they have often had limited control over the number of lyrics present in the songs. We report 4 experiments that investigated whether song lyrics make music distracting. Participants read short paragraphs in a self-paced reading paradigm in three sound conditions: 1) silence; 2) lyrical songs at ~150 words per minute; and 3) the instrumental version of the same songs. The results showed that listening to instrumental music either did not affect reading times or led to slightly faster reading times compared to silence. However, lyrical music led to an increase in reading times in three experiments. We conclude that instrumental music does not lead to distraction during reading. Song lyrics appear to be distracting, even if the observed distraction is quite mild.
... Indeed, nowadays, in the age of digitalization, more than ever a mix of multimodal information (sound, text, image, and video) can be displayed on screen or in virtual environments, in full immersion. Several studies aimed to understand how the comprehension in the context of multimodal information works (Johansson et al., 2012;Drai-Zerbib and Baccino, 2017). When there are different sources of information, connections between information established by comprehension aim to create a unique, coherent, integrated mental representation (mental model) by taking into account relevant information from verbal and visuospatial external sources (Fayol and Gaonac'h, 2003). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper provides new research perspectives in the field of multimodal comprehension (auditory crossing visual information) by using immersion and incorporating eye tracking in a virtual reality environment. The objective is to investigate the influence of a change in narrative perspective (point of view) during the activation of a mental model underlying comprehension between visual and auditory modalities. Twenty-eight participants, equipped with a headset SMI HMD HTC eye-tracking 250 Hz watched 16 visual scenes in virtual reality accompanied by their corresponding auditory narration. The change in perspective may occur either in the visual scenes or in listening. Mean fixations durations on typical objects of the visual scenes (Area of Interest) that were related to the perspective shift were analyzed as well as the free recall of narratives. We split each scene into three periods according to different parts of the narration (Before, Target, After), the target was where a shift in perspective could occur. Results shown that when a visual change of perspective occurred, mean fixation duration was shorter (compared to no change) for both Target and After. However, when auditory change of perspective occurred, no difference was found on Target, although during After, mean fixation duration was longer (compared to no change). In the context of 3D video visualization, it seems that auditory processing prevails over visual processing of verbal information: The visual change of perspective induces less visual processing of the Area of Interest (AOIs) included in the visual scene, but the auditory change in perspective leads to increased visual processing of the visual scene. Moreover, the analysis showed higher recall of information (verbatim and paraphrase) when an auditory change in perspective was coupled with no visual change of perspective. Thus, our results indicate a more effective integration of information when there is an inconsistency between the narration heard and viewed. A change in perspective, instead of creating comprehension and integration difficulties, seems to effectively raise the attention and induce a shorter visual inspection. These results are discussed in the context of cross-modal comprehension.
Article
Noise is present in most work environments, including emissions from machines and devices, irrelevant speech from colleagues, and traffic noise. Although it is generally accepted that noise below the permissible exposure limits does not pose a considerable risk for auditory effects like hearing impairments. Yet, noise can have a direct adverse effect on cognitive performance (non-auditory effects like workload or stress). Under certain circumstances, the observable performance for a task carried out in silence compared to noisy surroundings may not differ. One possible explanation for this phenomenon needs further investigation: individuals may invest additional cognitive resources to overcome the distraction from irrelevant auditory stimulation. Recent developments in measurements of psychophysiological correlates and analysis methods of load-related parameters can shed light on this complex interaction. These objective measurements complement subjective self-report of perceived effort by quantifying unnoticed noise-related cognitive workload. In this review, literature databases were searched for peer-reviewed journal articles that deal with an at least partially irrelevant "auditory stimulation" during an ongoing "cognitive task" that is accompanied by "psychophysiological correlates" to quantify the "momentary workload." The spectrum of assessed types of "auditory stimulations" extended from speech stimuli (varying intelligibility), oddball sounds (repeating short tone sequences), and auditory stressors (white noise, task-irrelevant real-life sounds). The type of "auditory stimulation" was related (speech stimuli) or unrelated (oddball, auditory stressor) to the type of primary "cognitive task." The types of "cognitive tasks" include speech-related tasks, fundamental psychological assessment tasks, and real-world/simulated tasks. The "psychophysiological correlates" include pupillometry and eye-tracking, recordings of brain activity (hemodynamic, potentials), cardiovascular markers, skin conductance, endocrinological markers, and behavioral markers. The prevention of negative effects on health by unexpected stressful soundscapes during mental work starts with the continuous estimation of cognitive workload triggered by auditory noise. This review gives a comprehensive overview of methods that were tested for their sensitivity as markers of workload in various auditory settings during cognitive processing.
Article
Full-text available
Research on the effect of background music (BgM) on cognitive task performance is marked by inconsistent methods and inconclusive findings. In order to provide clarity to this area, we performed a systematic review on the impact of BgM on performances in a variety of tasks whilst considering the contributions of various task, music, and population characteristics. Following the PRISMA and SWiM protocols, we identified 95 articles (154 experiments) that comprise cognitive tasks across six different cognitive domains—memory; language; thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving; inhibition; attention and processing speed. Extracted data were synthesized using vote counting based (solely) on the direction of effects and analyzed using a sign test analysis. Overall, our results demonstrate a general detrimental effect of BgM on memory and language-related tasks, and a tendency for BgM with lyrics to be more detrimental than instrumental BgM. Only one positive effect (of instrumental BgM) was found; and in most cases, we did not find any effect of BgM on task performance. We also identified a general detrimental impact of BgM towards difficult (but not easy) tasks; and towards introverts (but not extraverts). Taken together, our results show that task, music, and population-specific analyses are all necessary when studying the effects of BgM on cognitive task performance. They also call attention to the necessity to control for task difficulty as well as individual differences (especially level of extraversion) in empirical studies. Finally, our results also demonstrate that many areas remain understudied and therefore a lot more work still needs to be done to gain a comprehensive understanding of how BgM impacts cognitive task performance.
Article
Students prefer to listen to music while reading because they believe it will help them focus on constructing a contextual mental picture. However, the effect of background music on the reading comprehension of primary school new readers remains unclear. This study examines the effects of two musical factors (familiarity and tempo) on the construction of poetry mental picture in 129 Chinese primary school readers with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. The study controlled for nonverbal intelligence, age, gender, working memory, and receptive vocabulary, and results showed that background music had a negative effect on poetry reading performance. Specifically, students had similar performance in easy poetry reading with background music but performed better in difficult poetry reading with unfamiliar music and slower melody. The effect size of unfamiliar background music was larger than that of melody tempo. This study provided literature on the effect of background music on surface decoding in poetry reading and suggested that the appropriate approach for readers who are in the learning to read stage should be to refrain from listening to music while reading.
Article
Full-text available
Eye fixation patterns were used to identify reading strategies of adults as they read multiple-topic expository texts. A clustering technique distinguished 4 strategies that differed with respect to the ways in which readers reprocessed text. The processing of fast linear readers was characterized by the absence of fixations returning to previous text. Slow linear readers made lots of forward fixations and reinspected each sentence before moving to the next. The reading of nonselective reviewers was characterized by look backs to previous sentences. The distinctive feature of topic structure processors was that they paid close attention to headings. They also had the largest working-memory capacity and wrote the most accurate text summaries. Thus, qualitatively distinct reading strategies are observable among competent, adult readers.
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This study replicated previous reading time studies that have observed increased reading times for sentences introducing a new subtopic in a text, compared with sentences that are continuations of a subtopic. This topic-shift effect was obtained for the initial reading but not when the same text was reread. The absence of topic-shift effect was taken to suggest that readers construct a mental representation of the text's topic structure during the initial reading. The topic-shift effect was primarily due to regressive fixations, which tended to land in the first half of sentences. Regressions were typically launched al the end of sentences, with topic-shift sentences also well before the sentence end was reached. These findings are interpreted as evidence for the integrative nature of regressive fixations.
Article
Full-text available
In an initial survey of musical preferences, undergraduate groups of 22 extraverts and 26 introverts (defined on the basis of a median split of their scores on the Eysenck Personality Inventory) both chose and rated rock and roll as their favourite class of music. In addition, although extraverts reported working with music twice as much (50% of the time) as introverts (25%), both groups indicated that, when they played background music while studying, they kept the volume soft. Different groups of 24 extraverts and 24 introverts, equally split into music and no-music conditions, were then individually administered a retention test for two passages which they had just read. All subjects who heard music were played rock and roll at a low volume. Scores for extraverts were similar in the two conditions, but those for introverts were significantly poorer in the presence than in the absence of music. These results are interpreted as supporting a general model of arousal and performance in which the effects of...
Article
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.
Book
Reading is a highly complex skill that is prerequisite to success in many societies in which a great deal of information is communicated in written form. Since the 1970s, much has been learned about the reading process from research by cognitive psychologists. This book summarizes that important work and puts it into a coherent framework. Note that the full-text of this book is not available.
Chapter
The possible role of short-term or working memory in reading is discussed. A distinction is drawn between two hypothetical components of working memory — a central executive that is responsible for information processing and decision taking, and an articulatory loop which acts as a slave system, enabling verbal material to be maintained sub-vocally. On the basis of existing evidence, it is argued that the articulatory loop plays an important role in learning to read, but is less essential for fluent reading. Experiments are presented which show that objects may read and comprehend statements without utilisation of the articulatory loop. Conditions under which the loop will be utilised are discussed. It is suggested that these include situations where 1) judgments of phonological similarity are required; 2) retention of the surface structure of the passage is required; 3) strict word order is crucial to comprehension, and possibly 4) the rate of input of material exceeds the rate of semantic processing. My primary research interest is in human memory, and my interest in reading stems from this. A few years ago Graham Hitch and I began a series of experiments aimed at exploring the role of short-term memory in a number of information-processing tasks. This resulted in a substantial change in our concept of the nature of short-term memory, and the resulting hypothetical system, which we term working memory, seemed to suggest some interesting hypotheses about the nature of reading. In the present chapter, I want to discuss these hypotheses and describe some experiments stemming from them.
Article
27 male and 27 female high school students read a passage of literature in the presence of silence, low information-load, or high information-load music. Comprehension was best in the first music condition, worst in the last condition.
Recent researchers have attempted to correlate measures of working memory (WM) with measures of higher level cognitive skills and abilities focusing on the functions of this limited capacity system, i.e., processing and storage. Relationships between three span measures of the functional model of WM capacity and two measures of reading comprehension were investigated. The magnitude of the correlations found between reading comprehension and the two spans embedded in reading processing tasks was similar to that of the correlation found between a third span measure embedded in a quantitative task with reading comprehension. These results indicated that these span measures of WM capacity were independent of the nature of the concurrent processing task.
Book
Actors vocally portrayed happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust with weak and strong emotion intensity while reading brief verbal phrases aloud. The portrayals were recorded and analyzed according to 20 acoustic cues. 15 listeners (7 men and 8 women, aged 19-44 yrs) decoded each portrayal by using forced-choice or quantitative ratings. The results showed that (a) portrayals with strong emotion intensity yielded higher decoding accuracy than portrayals with weak intensity, (b) listeners were able to decode the intensity of portrayals, (c) portrayals of the same emotion with different intensity yielded different patterns of acoustic cues, and (d) certain acoustic cues (e.g., fundamental frequency, high-frequency energy) were highly predictive of listeners' ratings of emotion intensity. It is argued that lack of control for emotion intensity may account for some of the inconsistencies in cue utilization reported in the literature. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)