Music is as distracting as noise: the differential distraction of background music and noise on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts

Ergonomics. 2002 Feb 20;45(3):203-17. doi: 10.1080/00140130210121932.


Previous research has found that introverts' performance on complex cognitive tasks is more negatively affected by distracters, e.g. music and background television, than extraverts' performance. This study extended previous research by examining whether background noise would be as distracting as music. In the presence of silence, background garage music and office noise, 38 introverts and 38 extraverts carried out a reading comprehension task, a prose recall task and a mental arithmetic task. It was predicted that there would be an interaction between personality and background sound on all three tasks: introverts would do less well on all of the tasks than extraverts in the presence of music and noise but in silence performance would be the same. A significant interaction was found on the reading comprehension task only, although a trend for this effect was clearly present on the other two tasks. It was also predicted that there would be a main effect for background sound: performance would be worse in the presence of music and noise than silence. Results confirmed this prediction. These findings support the Eysenckian hypothesis of the difference in optimum cortical arousal in introverts and extraverts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Extraversion, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Introversion, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Music / psychology*
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom