Have you ever put together the perfect playlist for a road trip? What criteria did you use to pick the music – best songs for a singalong, songs to keep you pumped, something you can car-dance to? What if we were to tell you, your playlist could be putting you at risk on our roads?
Studies have shown that music can be quite detrimental in situations where a strong focus is needed. Take studying, for example; it has long been debated between students and teachers as to whether music helps them concentrate and relax into the study or causes a major distraction. Where do you stand with that argument? Are you a study-groover or do you like the peace and quiet? Are you listening to music right now?
How Music Impacts Us (in general) – According to the Research
Brain Power – In the 90s some super smart people conducted research of brain capacity for spatial reasoning and used musical notes to represent brain activity on a model. Testing the results on college students’ brains, they reported that IQ levels increased by as much as nine points as a result of listening to Mozart’s ‘Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major’. This theory became known as the Mozart Effect, suggesting listening to classical music would actually make you smarter. Around 10 years later, flaws were found in the theory and the whole thing was pretty much debunked.
Mood – OK, so music doesn’t necessarily make you smarter but can it make you feel better? Yes! That’s its job! Music is designed to make you feel. According to research, listening to music releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine in our brains. Dopamine promotes feelings of happiness and excitement. Check out more about that here. Research has shown that problem solving and memory formation may come easier for some when they are in a good mood, vs a bad or even neutral mood. However, music is also designed to make you feel other things such as sadness and anger, so careful selection is key.
Concentration – Here’s where it gets problematic… research looking at how music impacts students while studying shows that students who listen to music when they’re reading and writing tend to absorb less information and be less efficient in their studies. On the flip-side, students who study in a quiet environment do better at recalling information later for a test.
So the conclusion seems to be – yeah/nah. While it can be good for your mood, which can in-turn help with study, it can be distracting and make it difficult to take in information. It really depends on the type of music and the type of task.
What about when we’re driving?
All the research on the impact of music comes into play but is amplified (see what we did there?) when we put it together with driving. Research shows that soft, quiet background music in high-traffic situations can actually ease the boredom, anxiety or stress that comes with being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. While background noise, such as music has been shown in some cases to improve mood, focus and concentration, listening to music while driving has also proven to be extremely distracting.
If you do decide to bring music into your drive, here are a few things to consider:
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider before you crank up the volume and hit the road. We highly recommend practicing mindfulness while driving – turning off any competing sounds and tuning into the road, the car and the environment. However, after reading all of this, you may still think that a little bit of music can benefit you while driving. If this is the case, take a little time to plan and choose your playlist, set it before you start the car and keep it at a reasonable volume so you can keep your hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and ears attuned to everything around you.
A well-thought out playlist can not only help you arrive at your destination safely, but it can also get you in a great mood for the day ahead.