I work the weekend closing shifts at a local supermarket. There are many stores in the chain, and they all have the same soundtrack - consisting mostly of 70's music - which is played on repeat throughout the day. My job is to pull forward items, making them flush with the edges of shelves (so they are more accessible and visually appealing). This is a very repetitive task, and requires little concentration. In my personal experience, the repetition of the same music every week has a detrimental effect on my ability to work efficiently - it makes me sluggish.

Occasionally, however, a newer, more likable song is played (about every hour). I find that my motivation and work efficiency is boosted by the unfamiliar beat. I want to petition the company to update the entire playlist, arguing that it will benefit both the workers and the employer.

Before I draft a petition, I want to check that my observations are consistent with findings in modern psychology. I searched the web for relevant reports which would backup my hypothesis, but Google Scholar's search engine is only so helpful in finding things when you do not know the proper terms to search for... I did find some experiments (listed below) exploring the same subject, but I feel that alone they are insufficient for my argument:

  1. Music in Industry
  2. Music — an aid to productivity
  3. Background music and industrial efficiency—A review
  4. Effects of background music on concentration of workers
  5. Background music: Effects on attention performance

The first three of these reports hit some points which I wanted to emphasize, the last two seem like they would only hurt my cause.

  1. "There is general agreement that music may increase contentment of the worker, improve output, and lessen fatigue..." (1st report)
  2. "Music is most often appreciated by workers at repetitive manual tasks." (1st report)
  3. "music is effective in raising efficiency in this type of [repetitive] work..." (2nd report)
  4. "The use of music in industry is discussed as a possible means of aiding alertness, especially in jobs where a certain amount of repetition is involved." (3rd report)

At first glance, this seems like a solid foundation for drafting a petition. I have three reports from professional psychologists which make the same points I do. However, there is a slight problem. Each of these reports (with the fourth being the exception) study only the presence of music in a work environment, which is something my job already has. I am trying to find something to confirm my hypothesis that likable/new music is preferable to old/repetitive playlists.

Again the question arises, are these observations consistent with modern psychology? Perhaps I am on a wild goose chase. Maybe I am not finding the right report because it doesn't exist. But then again, maybe it does. I am not sure how things are run here at Psychology Stack Exchange, but I know that over at Stackoverflow, where I come from, there is an option to flag questions as off-topic if they are requests for third-party resources (such as books or tutorials). In light of this, I am not going to ask the easy question, "Can someone find me a good lab report?" Instead, I am going to ask for confirmation on my hypothesis, which will make this question more valuable to users visiting this site in the future.

Does new and likable music improve the motivation and/or work efficiency of laborers with repetitive tasks? And, on the flip-side, does old/repetitive/unlikable music demotivate and/or slow down workers?

(If you do not mind, please help me out with the petition by including any sources in your answers)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: Is there evidence that listening to music can aid/hinder concentration or performance? $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Feb 25, 2020 at 5:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Great question! It might also be worth looking into the adverse effects of repetitive music. I'm thinking particularly repetitive music in pop culture at least seems to be linked to torture techniques? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Feb 25, 2020 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ @StevenJeuris hmm, you may be right. I have been so focused on finding something exploring the effects of new/likable music that I completely overlooked the possibility of experiments exploring the detrimental effects of old/repetitive music. $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2020 at 16:00


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