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Manual motor reaction while being absorbed into popular music

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Vroegh,  Thijs P.
Department of Music, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

Wiesmann,  Sandro L.
Department of Music, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Scene Grammar Lab, Department of Psychology, Goethe-University;

Henschke ,  Sebastian
Department of Music, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Lange,  Elke B.
Department of Music, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Vroegh, T. P., Wiesmann, S. L., Henschke, S., & Lange, E. B. (2021). Manual motor reaction while being absorbed into popular music. Consciousness and Cognition, 89: 103088. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2021.103088.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-10A7-9
Abstract
In three experiments, we investigated the behavioral consequences of being absorbed into music on performance in a concurrent task. We tested two competing hypotheses: Based on a cognitive load account, captivation of attention by the music and state absorption might slow down reactions in the decisional task. Alternatively, music could induce spontaneous motor activity, and being absorbed in music might result in a more autonomous, flow-driven behavior with quicker motor reactions. Participants performed a simple, visual, two-alternative forced-choice task while listening to popular musical excerpts. Subsequently, they rated their subjective experience using a short questionnaire. We presented music in four tempo categories (between 80 and 140 BPM) to account for a potential effect of tempo and an interaction between tempo and absorption. In Experiment 1, absorption was related to decreased reaction times (RTs) in the visual task. This effect was small, as expected in this setting, but replicable in Experiment 2. There was no effect of the music’s tempo on RTs but a tendency of mind wandering to relate to task performance. After slightly changing the study setting in Experiment 3, flow predicted decreased RTs, but absorption alone — as part of the flow construct — did not predict RTs. To sum up, we demonstrated that being absorbed in music can have the behavioral consequence of speeded manual reactions in specific task contexts, and people seem to integrate the music into an active, flow-driven and therefore enhanced performance. However, shown relations depend on task settings, and a systematic study of context is necessary to understand how induced states and their measurement contribute to the findings.