This study investigated whether gradual or abrupt music change towards more calming music is most effective in calming drivers during high-demand driving situations. Twenty-eight participants were subjected to two types of music change (gradual, abrupt) in a within-subject design. First, a relatively happy mood was induced with personally selected music during an eight-minute simulated high-demand drive. The drive then continued and the mood was changed either gradually or abruptly. Subjective results showed successful music mood induction irrespective of gradual or abrupt changes. The results further showed lower skin conductance (less arousal) and more facial corrugator muscle tension (more sadness) during the abrupt music change. Fewer accidents occurred during the abrupt music mood change. To conclude, the results support the abrupt way of changing music type to down-regulate one's mood: during high-demand driving, abrupt changes in music led to more physiological calmness and improved driving performance, and were thus safer and more effective.
Practitioner summary: The current study shows that during high-demand drives, drivers are calmed more effectively using abrupt music changes compared to gradual music changes. This is illustrated by reductions in physiological arousal and improved driving behaviour. Hence, in-car music presentation can be used as a tool to improve driver's mood and behaviour.