2017-11-14Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01991
Eysenck's Theory of Personality and the Role of Background Music in Cognitive Task Performance: A Mini-Review of Conflicting Findings and a New Perspective
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
The question of whether background music is able to enhance cognitive task performance is of interest to scholars, educators, and stakeholders in business alike. Studies have shown that background music can have beneficial, detrimental or no effects on cognitive task performance. Extraversion—and its postulated underlying cause, cortical arousal—is regarded as an important factor influencing the outcome of such studies. According to Eysenck's theory of personality, extraverts' cortical arousal at rest is lower compared to that of introverts. Scholars have thus hypothesized that extraverts should benefit from background music in cognitive tasks, whereas introverts' performance should decline with music in the background. Reviewing studies that have considered extraversion as a mediator of the effect of background music on cognitive task performance, it is demonstrated that there is as much evidence in favor as there is against Eysenck's theory of personality. Further, revisiting Eysenck's concept of cortical arousal—which has traditionally been assessed by activity in the EEG alpha band—and reviewing literature on the link between extraversion and cortical arousal, it is revealed that there is conflicting evidence. Due to Eysenck's focus on alpha power, scholars have largely neglected higher frequency bands in the EEG signal as indicators of cortical arousal. Based on recent findings, it is suggested that beta power might not only be an indicator of alertness and attention but also a predictor of cognitive task performance. In conclusion, it is proposed that focused music listening prior to cognitive tasks might be a more efficient way to boost performance than listening to background music during cognitive tasks.