Differential Background Music as Attentional Resources Interacting with Cognitive Control

Ga Eul Yoo, Sujin Lee, Aimee Jeehae Kim, Seung Hong Choi, Hyun Ju Chong, Sunghyouk Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined the effects of background music on cognitive task performances using different musical arrangements from an excerpt of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K.448. The participants were 126 university students: 70 music majors and 56 nonmusic majors. Three types of musical arrangements were used as background conditions: rhythm-only, melody, and original music conditions. Participants were asked to perform cognitive tasks in the presence of each music condition. The participants’ percentage of completed items and accuracy on these tasks were compared for music and nonmusic majors, controlling for the effect of perceived level of arousal and their performance during no background music. Whether a participant’s perceptions of background music predicted their cognitive performance was also analyzed. We found that music majors demonstrated decreased task performance for the original background condition, while nonmusic majors demonstrated no significant differences in performance across the arrangements. When pitch or rhythm information was modified, emotional valence and arousal were perceived differently. Perception of the complexity of the background music depending on the arrangement type differed between music majors and nonmusic majors. While the perceived complexity significantly predicted nonmusic majors’ cognitive performance, its predictive effect was not found in music majors. The findings imply that perceptions of musical arrangements in terms of expectancy and complexity can be critical factors in determining how arrangements affect concurrent cognitive activity, while suggesting that music itself is not a facilitating or detrimental factor for cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15094
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Seoul National University Research Grant in 2017.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • attentional control
  • background music
  • cognitive performance
  • music majors


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