Music & Concentration

Middle School Life Science Science Fair Project
Photo © 2009 Karrie Nodalo, Flickr

While listening to music as you complete an activity may not seem like multitasking, high school students Olivia Kyi and Verna Zhao wondered if having music on in the background could be a distraction, affecting both concentration and performance. To test this theory, they used a 100 piece puzzle, classical music, and some willing participants. 

Perfect for upper middle school students interested in cognitive science, this project is great because it doesn't require many materials and can be done at school (perhaps in one of the study rooms in the library/media center) or at home. Here's the gist...

  1. Set out the 100 piece puzzle in a quiet room, inviting Test Group 1 (comprised of both male and female subjects) to work together to complete it. Record how long it takes the group to complete the puzzle.
  2. In the same room, invite Test Group 2 (comprised of both male and female subjects) to work together to complete the same puzzle. The difference - place a CD player in the corner and play classical music while they complete the puzzle. Time how long it takes the group to put the puzzle together.

To get conclusive results, you'll have to do this several times with different groups of volunteers.

[NOTE: Here's a similar project that we found over at - it tests the correlation between music and memory.]

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