Elżbieta Kasprzak Does listening to favourite music influence emotional experiences and reaction time of amateur drivers?

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Rocznik: 2022


Numer: 4

Tytuł: Does listening to favourite music influence emotional experiences and reaction time of amateur drivers?

Autorzy: Elżbieta Kasprzak

PFP: 399–418

DOI: 10.34767/PFP.2022.04.02

Artykuł jest dostępny na warunkach międzynarodowej licencji 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). 


Transport psychology is oriented towards human behaviour in traffic. Reduced driver efficiency and human error as the primary factor in a road accident are particular areas of interest. One of the 3 basic elements of driving a car and determining the driver’s efficiency, apart from the precision and power of movements, is the time of reaction. In road conditions, it is the time from recognizing the situation (stimulus) to the moment of starting the selected motor activity (Terelak,2015).    Although reaction time alone does not fully reflect the driver’s behaviour on the road, it gives a picture of the driver’s activity (single operation) in a sudden and emergency situation, in which quick reaction is an effective response. Such an approach is visible in the research on drivers with the use of driving simulators, in which reaction time is always or almost always monitored and interpreted in terms of driving behaviour. The reaction time is modified by interaction between external (road conditions) and internal (from the cabin) demands and the permanent and momentary driver’s capability (Fuller, 2005). Driver capability includes subject characteristic: demographic (age, gender), physiological (somatic state) and psychological (dispositions, affective processes and attentional resources) (Terelak, 2015).

This study investigates situational and psychological factors that influence driving performance: extra stimulation while driving – listening to music and emotional experiences of a driver. Listening to music while driving is common. About2/3 of drivers listen to music (radio or invehicle music player) for 75% of the driving time (Dibben, Williamson, 2007). Listening to music has over 129 functions that can be grouped into meta functions, the so-called “Big three of music”: regulation  of  arousal  and  mood,  increase  in  self-awareness,  and  tightening  of  social  networks (Schäfer et al., 2013).

It is assumed that listening to music impact on driving performance via emotional experience. “Emotional experience consists of four basic processes, the four A’s of Affect, Appraisal, Action Readiness, and Autonomic Arousal” (Frijda, 2009). Definition includes various emotional phenomena (such as moods or emotions) that refer to these processes: pleasure/pain, assessing the meaning of event, motive state and physiological reaction (Frijda, 2009). Music-induced emotions evoke psychophysiological and neurophysiological reactions (Panksepp, Bernatzky, 2002), activate cognitive representations, memories that are probably positive and distant in terms of content from the current situational context (Frijda, 2009). This means that many interdepended mechanisms are involved in the relationship between listening to music and behaviour. Previous research has emphasised emotional functions as mechanisms explaining the relationships between listening to music and driving performance. The first, refers to limited attentional resources, connected with  the  intensity  of  emotional  arousal  and  the  second  mechanism  relates  to  the  sign or content of a subjective experience: positive or negative which have different motivational consequences.

Arousal and limited attentional resources

Emotional processes interdependent with limited attention resources (Kahneman, 1973; Frijda, 2009) are the most frequently used mechanisms to explain psychomotor performance. Emotional arousal directs attention to a personally relevant task and prepares for specific behaviour, which means that free attention resources are limited. The arousal mechanism of emotions strengthens vigilance, and the orientation mechanism, usually subordinated to the executive mechanism, main tains the main activities serving the accomplishment of the primary task. If the task is accompanied by additional affective arousal, alertness is directed to the source of affective arousal and distracts from primary task e.g., motor operations in the driver’s cabin.

A similar stance is taken by Dibben and Williamson (2007) who explain the influence of listening to music on task performance by referring to the abstract nature of music. As such, music “bypasses” the structure of the “ego”, avoids intellectual control, extracts emotions from current context and strongly activates the listener. Emotional arousal and specific emotional experiences (accompanying listening to music) may redirect the driver’s some of attention resources from operating activities to activated memories or to following paratelic goals associated with the emotional experience.

The relationship between intensity of emotional arousal and performance can be depicted by an inverted U-shaped curve (cf. Easterbrook’s cueutilization theory and the Yerkes–Dodson law). Many results of experiments conducted with the use of driving simulators confirm the influence of music-induced arousal on driving behaviour, but not all results confirm an inverted U-shaped curve relation (Navarro, Osiurak, Reynaud, 2018). Navarro et al. (2018) explain that it is difficult to evoke the full range of the driver’s arousal in laboratory conditions, therefore only a linear relationship between the excitation and performance correlation related to the part of the curvilinear relationship is observed.

The best reaction times are achieved with a moderate level of arousal (Welford, 1980; Fuller, 2005; Navarro, Osiurak, Reynaud, 2018). Too high arousal, relates to a feeling of tension, including muscular tension and causes a slowdown in attention processes. Too low arousal, reveals as a feeling of boredom or monotony, and negatively affects the state of attention and muscle relaxation (Welford, 1980). Optimal emotional arousal depends on the subjective characteristics of a person and the task he or she performs. Higher emotional arousal is beneficial especially in low-complexity task: it enhances personal energy and attentional resources needed for information processing and performing the primary task (Ünal et al., 2013).

General many researchers agree that vehicular music improves subjective emotional state and increases level of arousal (Brodsky, Slor, 2013) and deteriorate driving performance (e.g. ignoring red traffic lights, excessive speed, longer reaction time and reducing the distance separating the driven vehicle from the leading vehicle) in compare to driving in silence (Welford, 1980; Navarro, Osiurak, Reynaud, 2018). Itmeans that music-induced emotions make the driver shorten the distance to lead car and increase the risk of road accident. This dependence applies to a short time (one music track), but in emergency situations on the road, it may affect the choice of the wrong motor operation or increase reaction time. Perhaps, the increase of arousal is the strongest at the beginning of stimulation (e.g. an additional stimulus like background music). According to the habituation mechanism, arousal dynamics weakens with the duration of a stimulus. So, quite short and high arousal redirects driver’s attention from the task to memories that deteriorate reaction time.

However, several researchers note, that in the same conditions, the music improves the driver’s efficiency and reaction time: medium tempo of the music (Turner, Fernandez, Nelson, 1996) or along with the driving time (after completing the second lap in the driving simulator) (Wang et al., 2015). Probably also in low-complexity situations, the background music compensates for the monotony, so it can improve driving efficiency.

According to Cassidy and MacDonald (2009) preferred music selected by driver is the most appropriate to the context of the task and additionally to his or her need for stimulation. Mizoguchi and Tsugawa (2012) and Navarro et al. (2018) investigated effect of no-favourite and familiar music on driver’s behaviour, and confirmed previous results that no-favourite music deteriorate performance. The result of meta-analysis (Wang et al., 2015) are consist with previous findings that listening to unfamiliar music while driving deteriorates driving performance – especially collision and signal violations and no significant influence on reaction time. There is no evidences that favourite music behind the wheel impairs driving performance.

The same driving performance deterioration effect is observed in other experimental conditions: a low-complexity road situation when driving in silence (Groene, Barrett, 2012; van der Zwaag et al., 2012), a high-complexity road situation while listening to favourite music, while in a road situation of low-complexity, listening to preferred music does not affect the driver’s behaviour (Jimison, 2014).

Positive and negative emotions and driving performance

Apart from the emotional arousal influencing driver’s performance, the second aspect of the music-induced affect is valence and the category of the emotions. Experienced emotions prompt a person to directs (or divides) attention to current hedonic/telic goals (e.g. pleasant memories or current mood evoked by music) and motivates to maintain (focus) attention on it (Frijda, 2009) and evoke different patterns of information processing. Positive affect leads to a heuristic, or comprehensive, though superficial, processing of information according to cognitive scripts (or cognitive schemas).

According to Broaden-and-Build theory of positive emotions, positive affect “opens the mind”, improves perception and concentration on possibilities, activates memory and boosts energy to action (Fredrickson, 2009). In terms of the activation of brain structures this means that a positive emotional state broadens the field of view (FOV) which improves the perception of centre and surround stimuli (Schmitz, De Rosa, Anderson, 2009).

Every music evokes positive or negative emotions in every listener (Dibben, Williamson, 2007), but listening to preferred music is always beneficial, increases satisfaction and improves mood (FakhrHosseini, Jeon, 2019), stabilizes the physiological parameters related to stress (van der Zwaag et al., 2012). Additionally, the emotional properties of preferred music modify current emotional states. The driver’s strong and negative emotions (anger) are toned down by listening to favourite music. The drivers experiencing anger had a lower heart rate when listening to music compared to driving in silence (FakhrHosseini, Jeon, 2019). In subsequent studies, drivers’ anger levels were alleviated when they listened to familiar music at a moderate tempo, which then had a positive impact on driving performance (Zhu et al., 2016). The mechanism of mitigating e.g. anger works through music-induced positive emotions and a driver is unaware of it (FakhrHosseini, Jeon, 2019).

Many studies concern the dimensional approach of emotions, and few studies investigate the connection of discrete positive affects while driving and reaction time. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that the effect of positive emotions caused by music (especially favourite) on the low-complexity tasks performance may be positive because positive emotions tone negative ones or stress (Wiesenthal, Hennessy, Totten, 2000; FakhrHosseini, Jeon, 2019) and broaden the field of attention for better information processing. On the one hand, favourite music as a sources of enjoyment, is perceived as the least distracting, so one should expect an improvement in driving and faster reactions. On the other hand, pleasure caused by favourite music redirects attention to the paratelic target and produces more accidents (Brodsky, Slor, 2013) and increases reaction time.

Negative affect is characterized by stronger arousal, triggers synthetic-analytical information processing, and engages attention mechanisms faster and stronger (Peeters, Czapiński, 1990). This may help to keep attention focused on the main task, which improves the effectiveness of the action along with its indicator – reaction time.

So far, researchers have studied the influence of two emotions on driver’s behaviour: anger and sadness (Jeon, 2016; FakhrHosseini, Jeon, 2019). Anger arises as a response to an obstacle that can and must be overcome. As a rule, anger has a high activation, therefore it motivates to action, serves to select information according to the priority of the main task, and protects against additional and unnecessary information. However, anger is also a tendency to be overly optimistic in the face of difficulties, so it can cause additional errors in the performance of the task. That supposition has been supported by the study of angry drivers who, compared to drivers with neutral states, reduce efficiency in terms of reaction time and adequate response to road situations (FakhrHosseini, Jeon, 2019).

Sadness, on the one hand, due to negative valence may improve concentration of attention, on the other hand, due to low activation, it may worsen driving performance.  The  results  of  research  on  sadness,  anger  and  neutral  emotional  state  showed worse driving performance and longer reaction times of drivers with anger and sadness state than drivers with neutral state. Additionally drivers feeling anger reported higher physical overload and frustration than drivers with neutral affect (Jeon, 2016). It is possible that the stronger activation of anger than that of sadness causes additional psychological and health losses. Other negative emotions do not have such clearcut cognitive and behavioural indicators.

Furthermore, dispositional traits like reactivity or extraversion modify the tendency to experience emotional states and, indirectly, reaction time. A driver with low reactivity behaves effectively under high stimulation (even extreme and risky), therefore he or she can, for example, listen to music and perform primary tasks without significant losses in the effectiveness. Highly reactive drivers, in order to remain effective, show less activity and limit the number of stimulations provided (Ünal et al., 2013). Studies prove that shorter reaction times is observed in more intelligent (Schweitzer, 2001), physically fit and extroverted people (Welford, 1980). That means the necessity to control the driver’s temperamental dispositions in explication of the relationship between current emotions and behaviour behind the wheel.

Summing up, the impact of listening to preferred music on the driver’s reaction time turned out to be ambiguous. In line with the regulatory role of emotions and the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, it can be assumed that positive emotions, such as joy and pleasure caused by music, increase the driver’s efficiency, especially in a low-complexity task situation. Moreover the emotional state accompanying favourite, familiar music, tones the tension, reduces stress and improves (or stabilizes) the efficiency of drivers. The research results confirm that driving performance is best when invehicle music has a moderate tempo, as it does not lead to over-stimulation and when the complexity of the road situation is low (Millet, Ahn, Chattah, 2019). Researchers agrees that preferred music improves the mood (Brodsky, Slor, 2013), and some of them indicate that positive mood boosts the cognitive and decision-making efficiency of the driver also in terms of reaction time (Wiesenthal, Hennessy, Totten, 2000).

However, according to the attentional resources model, any additional stimulus reduces performance. Most researchers emphasize that the mood and emotional arousal accompanying favourite invehicle music creates distraction, which lengthens reaction time and causes instability of behaviour and increases driver’s errors.

Aim and hypotheses

The study aims to investigate the impact of listening to preferred music and accompanying emotional experiences on reaction time, the dispersion of the scores of reaction time (variability across trials within one task) and the number of errors in low-complexity task situation. Emotional experiences and changes in emotional states before and after musical stimuli were tested. Reaction time refers to a complex reaction that requires stimulus differentiation, response selection and operation.

Testing the reaction time in laboratory is non-natural and low-complexity situation because it includes the simple motor activities of pressing the pedals and reacting to lights. Favourite music is treated as background stimulation that reduces the monotony of the current situation, then it is to be expected that the positive affect caused by preferred music improves reaction time. Moreover music-induced emotions – usually positive, improve attention, broaden awareness and encourage to activity. Hence the following hypotheses are derived.

The first hypothesis assumes that drivers listening to their favourite music have a shorter reaction time, fewer errors and a smaller dispersion of results than drivers performing the task in silence. The second hypothesis is: Drivers listening to favourite music often experience positive emotions and less often negative ones compared to drivers driving in silence. The third hypothesis is: positive emotions strongly than negative emotions positively influence the driver’s efficiency (shorter reaction time, fewer number of errors and smaller dispersion of results).

Material and method


In the first stage of the experiment 102 students participated. The conditions for inclusion in the study were: age from 20 to 30 years, holding a category B driving license for at least 2 years and driving a car at least twice a week and listening to music while driving always or almost always. Finally, 84 respondents (42 females and 42 males) met the formal conditions for inclusion and took part in the second stage of the experiment. There were drivers from 20 to 30 years of age (M = 24.29, SD = 2.73, Me = 24), 92% of them always listened to music behind the wheel.

Assessment measures

The “Formal Characteristics of Behavior-Temperament Questionnaire: Revised Version” (FCZ-KT(R); Cyniak-Cieciura, Zawadzki, Strelau, 2016) questionnaire was used to diagnose reactivity. The reactivity scale includes 15 items. The participant responds to the statements by marking the statements on a scale: 1 – Strongly Dis-agree, 2 – Disagree, 3 – Agree and 4 – Strongly Agree. The measurement reliability of this scale is Cronbach’s α = .80.

The emotional state was measured with The Scale of Positive and Negative Experiences (SPANE) by Diner et al. (2009) in Polish translation by Kaczmarek and Baran (2015). The scale consists of the following subscales: positive emotions (SPANE-P), negative emotions Scale (SPANE-N) and affective balance (SPANE-B). Affective balance is calculated as the difference between positive and negative affect. SPANE is a list of 12 adverbs (6 per subscale) that describe experiencing of positive    and negative states and feelings (see: Table 3 and 4). Each emotion is assessed on a scale from 1 “Very rarely or never” to 5 “Very often or always”. The reliability of the first measurement for SPANE-P, Cronbach’s α = .86 and for SPANE-N Cronbach’s α = .78. In the second measurement, for SPANE-P, Cronbach’s α = .89, for SPANE-N, Cronbach’s α = .84.


An experiment was carried out to measure the choice reaction time and the number of errors in two groups: listening to preferred music and in silence. The psychophysical reaction of the subject was measured in seconds with the use of the reaction time tester (AdBCR) AT-SMART System, which is approved for testing drivers by the Motor Transport Institute and corresponds to the methodology of psychological tests of drivers (Rotter, 2003). The system consists of a light and sound signalling device on an adjustable tripod, a set of buttons/pedals separately for each hand and leg, and a control panel. The indicator emits 3 light stimuli: red, yellow and green light and two sound stimuli: a high tone and a low tone according to the software. The examined person responds appropriately to the selected stimuli with a set of 2 hand buttons (right and left hand) and foot pedal (separately for each leg). Measurement of the complex response time refers to the time between the stimulus and reaction (pressing a button), which includes the decision whether to respond and how to respond and the proper reaction. The participants from experimental group reacted to stimuli listening to preferred music. The control group performed the same tasks but in silence.

Music stimuli

In the first stages of survey the respondents chosen 2 favourite songs, often with link to the preferred performance. During the experiment, the first track was used, if it was not available, the second track was selected. When the participant did not picked the link to the preferred performance of the song, the official version (exactly “official video”, but the video was not visible to the participant) was played. The participants picked their favourite songs from various genres, the most often: pop, rock, hip-hop and R&B. The music tracks played during the experiment are listed in Table 1. The music was played from the YouTube application, from a laptop – 4AJJC6BO (with sound system Realtek High Definition Audio (SST) for Windows10) located behind the back of the examined person at w distance of 2meters. The music was played with the same volume (75–80 dB) for each subject. The volume was controlled with a decibel meter.

Table 1.    Favourite music tracks played during the experiment (two songs were played twice)


The experiment was conducted at the University Experimental Research Laboratory at the Faculty of Psychology from January to March 2020. The procedure of experiment contents two stages. First stage concerned the recruitment to the experiment (announced at university) and completing the online survey, second stage included the proper experiment. In the first stage, amateur drivers interested in the survey signed the online consent form, and completed an online temperament questionnaire, and answered questions about age, gender, driving license and experiences behind the wheel and the question how often the person listens to music while driving. According to previous studies, the efficiency of driving a vehicle is affected by both the current emotional state and dispositions to emotional reaction related to temperamental and personality traits (Welford, 1980; Strelau, 2006). It was therefore decided to control the reactivity in order to check the homogeneity of the experimental and control groups in the next step.

Additionally, participants were asked to provide the titles of their 2 preferred songs with a link to their favourite version of the songs in the YouTube application.

In the second stage of the study – the experiment of reaction time do the stimuli with background music or in the silence – 84 people took part. The selection of people for the experimental and control groups was random. Each group consisted of 42 people. The time interval between the first stage of completing the online questionnaire and the second stage, a meeting in the experimental laboratory, was 3 weeks. At the second stage of the study in the laboratory, the participants were again informed about the course of the experiment, about the methods of collected data protection, and gave their written consent to participate in the experiment and they completed the scale of positive and negative emotional experiences (SPANE), in which they related to their current emotional experiences. Additionally, due to exposure to visual and auditory stimulation, the respondents were asked about phobias and anxiety as well as epilepsy. The study was conducted individually, in identical conditions for everyone (the same person conducting the study, in the same quiet and slightly darkened room, the same instructions and using the same equipment). The set for measuring the reaction time, the chair for the participant were set up in accordance with the methods of conducting psychological tests of drivers (Rotter, 2003).

The tests used program no. 2 that includes 30 stimuli and lasts about 1 min. 20 sec. The test is preceded by an attempt, which shows whether the subject understood the instruction. According to the instructions, the subject presses the pedal as quickly as possible with his right foot on green light and his left foot on red. The participant ignores the remaining stimuli (yellow light and sound signals). People from both experimental and control groups performed the same task.

After the end of the experiment, all participants filled in the SPANE again, in which they marked their emotional experiences during the experiment. The last element of the experimental procedure was a short conversation with each participant about the study itself. The participants were informed about the possibility of presenting individual results as well as about the influence of music on reaction time and road safety.

Statistical analysis

The following statistical analyses were used: Student’s t-test and effect size were used for intergroup comparisons (Cohen’s d, or Glass’s delta – for large SD differences in the samples), and Pearsons r coefficient to reveal the correlation between emotional state and reaction time. Statistica 13.3 application was used for all calculations.


The compared groups experimental (E) and control (C) are equivalent in terms of age, gender and emotional reactivity and the emotional state experienced before the experiment. The age of people in group E (M = 24.38, SD = 2.54) and K (M = 24.19, SD  =  2.93) is similar and the differences between the means are statistically insignificant (t = .32, p = .75). The average emotional reactivity in both groups (M = 42.05, SD = 5.97 and M = 43.05, SD = 5.96) is similar (t = .77, p = .44) which confirms the equivalence of the groups. Before the experiment the emotional state currently experienced by the participants in groups E (positive emotions: M  = 24.45, SD = 3.3; negative emotions: M = 11.71, SD = 3.6.) and K (positive emotions: M = 23.52, SD = 4.1; negative emotions: M = 12.48, SD = 3.8) is also similar (for positive emotions: t = 1.15, p = .25; for negative emotions: t = –.95, p = .35 and for the emotional balance t = 1.11, p = .3). Before the experiment the frequency/level of discrete emotions listed as: negative, bad, good, pleasant, unpleasant, happy, sad, afraid, joyful, angry, contented is similar in the two compared groups. Only the feeling of positive mood are higher (t = 2.04, p  =  .05; Cohen’s d = .46) in the experimental group (M  =  4.2,  SD  =  .65) than in the control group (M = 3.9, SD = .64). No difference (and the difference in one mood) confirms that the groups are emotionally equivalent. All respondents report the habit of listening to vehicular music, 77 people always listen to music, while 7people (5.9%) – sometimes. In the group E, 40 participants always listen to music and 2, sometimes. In the group C, 37 people always listen to music and 5people – sometimes.

The comparison of the reaction time and the dispersion of the results in the experimental and control groups confirmed the supposition that the preferred music influences the driver’s reactions but is inconsistent with the direction of impact expressed in the first hypothesis. Drivers who listening to the favourite music had a longer reaction time and had a larger dispersion of results compared to drivers performed the task in silence. There was no difference in the number of errors between the groups (Table 2).

Table 2.    Differences between mean values of RT, dispersion of the results and number of errors between experimental (n = 42) and control group (n = 42) subjects

Immediately after the experiment, the subjects from group E experienced a significantly stronger positive emotions, a significantly weaker negative emotions and a higher level of positive emotional balance than those from group C (Table 3). The largest experimental effect concerned discrete emotions; positive affect, contentment, pleasure, happiness, and anger. The effect size of background music on negative emotions is from moderate to large and on positive emotions is twice as large as on negative emotions.

Table 3.    Emotional experiences of amateur drivers reacting to stimuli with (group E, n = 42) and without (group K, n = 42) musical stimulation – measurement II (T2)

After  the  experiment,  participants  were  asked  if  they  had  experienced a change in mood during the study. In the experimental group, 33 people stated that they experienced a change of mood, 9 people (21.4%) said that they did not experience such a change. In the control group, 37 people noticed a change in mood, while 5people (11.9%) did not. The questionnaire measurement of emotions confirmed the opinions of respondents. Drivers listening to music had a higher level of positive emotions, lower negative emotions and a better balance of emotions than before the experiment. In the control group, the level of positive emotions and the emotional balance were lower, and the level of negative emotions was higher than before the experiment, but the effect size is small (Table 4). The largest change of emotions before and after experiment in the group E concerns emotions: anger, pleasure, negative and positive feelings (the effect size is large).

Table 4.    Emotional experiences of amateur drivers from the experimental (E, n = 42) and control (K, n = 42) groups – change before (T1) and after (T2) the experiment    

The smallest change (the effect size ismedium) concerns emotions labelled as sad, happy and bad. Music does not change the emotion of fear that was weak in the beginning of the experiment. These results are in line with previous report that listening to favourite music increases positive emotions and tones down anger and sadness (van der Zwaag et al., 2012; Jeon, 2016; FakhrHosseini, Jeon, 2019). The participants in the control group after the experiment reported the small or medium change (Cohen’s d from .21 to .44) of affects listed as good, positive, pleasant, angry, contented, happy, afraid, and joyful.

Significant correlations were found between the reaction time and general positive emotional experiences (r = .43, p < .05), and negative emotional experiences (r = –.26, p < .05) and the emotional balance (r = .37, p < .05). Positive emotions correlate negatively with reaction time almost twice as stronger as negative emotions correlate positively with reaction time. The dispersion and the number of errors were related only to negative emotions (r = –.23 and r = –.25, p < .05 respectively). No direct relationship has been found between discrete emotions and the reaction time in experimental group. In the control group only two emotions: afraid and joyful prolonged the reaction time (r = .36 and r = .39, respectively). Regardless of the group, there are no differences between men and women in the reaction time, and the number of errors. The age of the respondents, however limited (from 20–30 years), was also not related to any measure of reaction.


The results obtained in the experiment confirmed that listening to preferred music improves the mood in the form of an increase in positive emotions, a decrease in negative emotions and an increase in the balance between positive and negative emotions. Despite their improved mood, the respondents who were listening to preferred music obtained worse choice reaction time and a greater dispersion of reaction time than those responding to light and sound stimuli in silence. These results confirmed the assumption that music takes up attention and deteriorates behavioural skills. This result is consistent with previous results, when driving simulation included long time (Wang et al., 2015), but no consistent when driving was short (only one preferred music track) (Navarro, Osiurak, Reynaud, 2018). The improvement of cognitive performance under the influence of positive emotions, as postulated by Fredrickson (2009), has not been confirmed in the case of reaction time. Probably the improvement of the reaction time would take place in a situation of a sense of freedom of reaction and towards paratelic goals and of the absence of time pressure what happen in the experiment of Schmitz et al. (2009). The results of improving reaction time under the influence of vehicular music obtained by Groene and Barrett (2012) and Wang et al. (2015) showed that in the long driving cycle (with periods of low and high road stimulation) emotions become stable and support cognitive and executive processes. Therefore, the short task time in this experiment revealed a greater dispersion of the reaction time scores of people listening to music than those working in silence.

Listening to music does not increase the number of error compared to the experiment in salience. This result shows that music attracts attention which extends the reaction time, but probably does not disorganize the process of choosing the right reaction. Decision-making processes (detection, stimulus differentiation, response choice) in low-complexity tasks are more resistant to interferences by music and accompanying emotions than executive process. This is supposition, that should be verified.

Hypothesis second of the positive change of mood under the influence of favourite music was supported and consistent with the previous study (e.g. Brodsky, 2002). Positive emotions, are significantly higher in the experimental group than in the control group in the post-test, and higher after experiment than before. In the control group during the experiment, emotions: joyful and afraid changed the most, that moderately extended the reaction time. The emotions that changed the most during listening to the favourite music were, happiness, contentment and blurred positive affect. The greatest change in negative emotional experiences concerns: negative feeling, unpleasantness and anger that support earlier findings that favourite music tones down negative affect (Wiesenthal, Hennessy, Totten, 2000; FakhrHosseini, Jeon, 2019). The subjects from the control group manifest more negative experiences, less positive and weaker emotional balance after the experiment compared to the state before the experiment and compared to the mood of subjects from experimental group. This deterioration probably is the effect of monotonous task or of stress of the context of the experiment (e.g. the researcher, laboratory, previously unknown device for measuring reaction time, new task) and the lack of pleasant or well-known stimulus that stabilizes emotional state (Schäfer et al., 2013).

Third  hypothesis  was  not  supported.  However,  positive  emotions  have a stronger impact on reaction time than negative emotions, but the direction of this influence is inconsistent with the supposition. Positive emotions lengthen reaction time almost twice as much as negative emotions. However, despite worse mood in group, C their reaction times were better. However, despite the worse mood in group C, reaction times were better. Probably the stress and tension accompanying the study activate telic goals, improve vigilance and information processing (Kahneman, 1973; Peeters, Czapiński, 1990; Frijda, 2009), which has a mobilizing effect, the more so as the overall emotional balance is positive. The hypothesis of broadening awareness through positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2009), which expand sensitivity to new possibilities, is more useful for paratelic purposes and does not work in reactive actions. Preferred music took up attention and periodically distracted respondents from the task by evoking reflections and memories (Dibben, Williamson, 2007), which was revealed in the instability of responding to experimental stimuli (the dispersion of the results).

On the other hand, individual modalities of positive emotions, e.g. happiness, may influence behaviour differently, depending on the dynamics of emotions and task context. Single emotions, such as afraid and joyful reveal a moderate positive relationship with reaction time, but only doing task in silence. Emotional state of drivers listening music does not correlate with reaction time. But general positive and emotional experiences are moderately related to reaction time. The successive positive emotions evoked by the music together influence reaction time. All emotions experienced during the experiment are significantly different depending on the group, but only their combined action causes changes in behaviour, which is observed in the worse reaction time of drivers listening to music.

The limitation of this research is the resignation from the procedures of the classic experiment involving the measurement of reaction time in the experimental group without the emission of the favourite music. The quasi-experimental study plan without a pre-test was undertaken due to the process of acquiring skills with the duration of the experiment. The second measurement accompanied by music could reflect the learning effect rather than the impact of music. On the other hand, the selection of a control group, equivalent in terms of key psychological and demographic parameters, allows for drawing conclusions about the influence of music on reaction time.


Young – novice drivers listening to their favourite music why performing the low-complexity tasks, more often experience positive emotions and less often – negative emotions, in comparison to drivers performing tasks in silence. Participants listening to their favourite music need more time to react and their reaction speed is unstable in the short term. Listening to favourite music and accompanying emotions do not impact on number of errors in choosing the proper response probably because the task is simple and does not require special concentration.

The mechanism which explains these results is limited attention resources and the modality of affect. Favourite music-induced positive mood redirects attention to pleasant goals or memories and makes the reaction to light stimuli become secondary activity requiring more time. Emotions caused by music, regardless of the content, do not correlate with reaction time, only fear and joy moderately worsen reaction time to a task performed in silence. The emotions most affected by music are: anger, contentment, negative and positive feelings. Negative general experiences shorten the reaction time, positive ones prolong it, but the strength of negative ones is twice as low as that of positive ones. This is a tip to avoid negative emotions more than to increase positive emotions.


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