Beyond the emotional impact of dissonance: Inharmonic music elicits greater cognitive interference than does harmonic music
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The present research evaluates whether task-irrelevant inharmonic music produces greater interference with cognitive performance than task-irrelevant harmonic music. Participants completed either an auditory (Experiments 1 and 2) or a visual (Experiment 3) version of the cognitively demanding 2-back task in which they were required to categorize each digit in a sequence of digits as either being a target (a digit also presented two positions earlier in the sequence) or a distractor (all other items). They were concurrently exposed to task-irrelevant harmonic music (judged to be consonant), task-irrelevant inharmonic music (judged to be dissonant), or no music at all as a distraction. The main finding across all three experiments was that performance on the 2-back task was worse when participants were exposed to inharmonic music than when they were exposed to harmonic music. Interestingly, performance on the 2-back task was generally the same regardless of whether harmonic music or no music was played. I suggest that inharmonic, dissonant music interferes with cognitive performance by requiring greater cognitive processing than harmonic, consonant music, and speculate about why this might be.
Cite this work
Tanor Bonin (2016). Beyond the emotional impact of dissonance: Inharmonic music elicits greater cognitive interference than does harmonic music. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/10427