Monday, March 26, 2018

Music and the Stress of Driving
Listening to your favorite music may reduce the stress of driving during rush hour.
For many people commuting to work in rush hour traffic is a major source of stress.  Although carpooling, mass transit and tele-working from home are possible solutions to the problem of commuting; these options are not always available to every person.  An alternative solution to the stress of commuting may be listening to your favorite music.  Music may help reduce the stress of commuting by distracting the driver’s attention from the heavy congestion, the primary source of stress, and relaxing the driver.  To test whether music does help reduce stress while driving, researchers from York University in Ontario Canada conducted an experiment.
What was the research about?
The experiment involved a group of 40 students and business workers who all commuted alone, to school or their place of employment, using the same major highway.  Half of the participants were randomly assigned to choose their favorite tape or CD and listen to it during their commute.  The other half of the participants were not allowed to listen to any music or talk radio during their entire commute.  During their commute, the participants called the experimenter twice, using a cell phone, and verbally completed a questionnaire that measured their level of stress.  To make sure all participants reported their stress levels at the same point during their commute, the researchers designated two specific landmarks along the highway.  When the participants reached each of these two landmarks, they called the experimenter.  One of the landmarks was located along a typically low-congestion section of the highway and the other landmark was located along a typically high-congestion section of the highway.  This allowed the researchers to compare how stressed participants were when in high-congestion and low-congestion traffic during their commute.
Results showed that listening to music did reduce participant’s feelings of stress when they were in high-congestion traffic.  When participants were in low-congestion traffic, however, listening to music did not affect their stress levels.
Why should it matter to me?
            Commuting to work is a necessary evil for many Americans that can create a lot of stress before the actual work day even begins.  To help alleviate this stress commuters may want to try taking along a favorite CD or tape and listening to it during their commute.  This may help reduce stress by relaxing the person and giving them more of a sense of control during their commute.  Even if a person’s job itself is stressful, at least getting to that job doesn’t have to be.
Source: Wiesenthal, David, L., Hennessy, Dwight, A., and Totten, Brad. (2000). The influence of music on driver stress. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30, 1709-1719