Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This morning I decided to stay home to concentrate on the new and surprisingly involved task of designing and coding up the pattern for subject-task assignment for an upcoming experiment such that the paltry number of subjects I'm likely to be able to recruit will provide me with that magical value of the P family sought after by so many other desperate graduate students like wolves after a wounded moose. (Wow, check out the length of that intro sentence!). Anyway, as I settled down to think through my design, I was plagued by one auditory distraction after another - car alarms, truck engines, my neighbor's bass, even jackhammers (I kid you not). Growingly increasingly frustrated with the noise and my inability to concentrate, I realized that the solution was not less noise, but more noise! I strapped on my headphones and went back to work. In 5 minutes I was not only working more effectively, I was calmer and frankly happier.

I've heard many people, usually a few years my superior, complain about people listening to music while they 'should be working'. I wonder if this reaction has anything to do with the fact that they grew up in a time when it was actually possible to find a quiet place to work on a regular basis? Now, in increasingly compressed living and working quarters, it seems that music is one of the few ways left to provide oneself with a bit of cognitive privacy.

Do you listen while you work? What is your favorite artist/genre for getting something done?


Benjamin Good said...

This reminded about the one and only statistics class I took in my life (circa 1997). As our final project we designed and conducted an experiment intended to quantify the immediate cognitive effect of music on intelligence. My project partner (who recently founded 'tourvista' ) and I had subjects listen to either Metallica or Beethoven while taking an IQ test. We found a positive effect for the Metallica group (and it was apparently statistically significant (good P value!) so it must be true ;).

Unknown said...

All the time, music is a must these days, even as white noise only.

I think I never worked in an institute/university that wasn't on renovation at some point.