Classical Music : What it Means for the Web

A study by Christine Phillips published by the Software Usability Research Laboratory (SURL) at Wichita State University concludes that classical music provides increased focus and efficiency on computer-based tasks (in this case, ranking items in order of importance for survival on the moon). Despite off-task distractors, students who listened to classical music performed significantly better than those listening to punk rock or to silence.

Those in the classical music condition appeared to be more involved in the task, leading to better scores on the problem-solving task and an increase in the use of hyper-personal communication. It is possible that classical music helped the participants relax creating an opportunity for them to not only succeed at the problem-solving task, but also have a more interactive communication experience. Future studies should examine the effects of different types of Classical music on computer-mediated tasks as well as other types of computer-based tasks, such as Web browsing and playing online games.

So, as a webmaster, should you include classical music in the background? If you have a task for someone to complete–an online test, for example; if you wish to keep people at your site longer, reading more pages, and interacting–the answer might be “yes”. All this research is still in its infancy, and therefore the results of studies will fluctuate wildly until someone has an insight on why some things work, and some things don’t. But the evidence continues to mount that soft classical music as an adjunct to a task will help that task be performed more efficiently and pleasantly.

To that end, I’m going through my lists of copyright-free recordings, and one day you may find a small “play” icon on this site, with recordings of some of my favorite pieces. In the meantime, the next time you find yourself with a task to do at the computer, it may just be time to pop in that classical CD, or tune into a classical internet radio station, and try it for yourself! If you’re in the USA, you might also try out Pandora; it’s an interesting musicological study. I’ve got a friend who has selected some pieces for you.

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