Work has been done to the accompaniment of music ever since the first work songs were created, but psychological research on industrial music dates back only thirty years. Some of the early studies reported significant effects not only on worker morale but on productivity as well. More recent and more refined investigations have questioned some of these claims. Nevertheless a survey made by Scott and others in 1961 indicated that about one third of all sizable manufacturing companies had introduced music programs of one kind or another.Before summarizing the present status of the subject, it might be useful to review two influential studies, one involving complex work and the other a simple, routine task. The subjects in the first experiment were 142 women working in a rug factory; their job required long training and a high degree of manipulative skill, visual memory, and color discrimination. Music was played for eighty minutes a day four days a week for five weeks, but the types of programs and the music- free day were varied from week to week. There were no significant changes in output on either the music or the music-free days—perhaps, as the investigators suggested, because the workers had established stable activity patterns that could not be easily influenced. However, when they were asked whether the music should be continued, 84.5 per cent said yes, 14.5 per cent said it made no difference, and only 1 per cent said no (McGehee and Gardner, 1949).The subjects in the second study were forty-two women who performed highly repetitive production-line tasks in the manufacture of terminals for radios. Half of them were on the day shift, half on the- night shift. Carefully scheduled music programs were played for twelve weeks, and productivity during music and non-music shifts was compared. The experimenter reported that “Production under varying conditions of music increased from 4 to 25%. The average increase on the day shift was 7%; on the night shift 17%.” There was no decline in the effectiveness of the music over the entire period, and interviews at the end showed that there was also no decline in the enthusiasm of the workers (Smith, 1947).A thorough review of all major investigations has been made by Uhrbrock (1961). His conclusions indicate that companies would be well advised to investigate the work situation, the type of job, and the attitudes of the employees before deciding whether to adopt a music program—and if it is adopted, no one should expect miraculous results. Here are his major points: First, many of the claims for increased production as a result of music have not been scientifically established. Second, at least three investigators have reported that “Young, inexperienced employees engaged in simple, repetitive, monotonous tasks increased their output when stimulated by music.” Third, experienced factory workers whose work patterns were stabilized and who were performing complex tasks did not increase their production. Fourth, factory employees in general prefer working where music is played. Fifth, changes in blood pressure in some subjects indicate that feelings of euphoria during periods of musical stimulation have a physiological basis. Sixth, the majority prefer instrumental to vocal music at work. Seventh, not all workers like work music; from one to ten per cent are annoyed by it. Eighth, the quality of work can be adversely affected by music, and the output can be lowered even when the worker reports it was “quite pleasant.” Ninth, the older the worker, the less

Cite this page: Nugent, Pam M.S., "MUSIC AND WORK," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed January 20, 2019).