Friday 23 December 2016

Researchers Find Background Music Can Skew Our Estimates Of Time


If you often find yourself running late for work, it might be time to change your playlist.

According to a new study, the length of a song playing in the background while you carry out a task can cause you to underestimate how long it actually took to complete.

As people rely on estimates of past experiences to plan for future events, something as seemingly innocuous as background music can be the difference between arriving on time, and being late.

Time-management researchers from Washington University in St Louis explored how time-based 'prospective memory' can mess up our plans.

This is a term used by psychologists to describe the process of remembering to do something in the future.

In the study, they examined the differences in how young and old people approach a time-based challenge that involved planning ahead.

The team recruited 36 college undergraduates and 34 healthy older adults in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.


Participants were asked to keep track of how long it took to complete a trivia quiz, which always ran 11 minutes.

The subjects, however, had no access to a clock, and had to create their own estimates.

Some did this with background music – either two long songs or four short songs – while others had no background noise.

Then, they were asked to assemble as many pieces of a puzzle while leaving enough time to complete the same quiz before a 20-minute deadline.

The researchers found that seniors completed the planning tasks on time, at roughly the same rate as the college students.

This goes in contrast to previous findings.



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