Young adults like to ask “What’s new?” when they meet a friend. But when they’re driving in their car, they don’t want to hear the news. Instead, they just have to hear music, according to a new study from Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev.
Prof. Warren Brodsky, director of BGU’s music science lab in the arts department, who published his findings in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain, said adults aged 18 to 29 say driving is “absolutely impossible” without music.
“To young drivers…, music in the car isn’t just entertainment, it’s part of their ‘autosphere’ whether they’re alone or not. They are so used to constant stimulation and absorbing great amounts of information throughout the day that they don’t question how the type of tunes they play might affect concentration, induce aggressive behavior, or cause them to miscalculate risky situations,” wrote Brodsky in the paper entitled “An exploratory study of in-cabin music engagement among young-adult drivers.”
Over 40 years ago, a Swedish researcher found that her participant drivers sang and tapped along with the music as they drove; she identified the car as the environment in which one’s strongest musical experiences were reported to have occurred. Nonetheless, not much is known about everyday music engagement while driving.
In the new BGU study, 140 young adults responded to a 67-item questionnaire exploring how drivers engage with music while driving. Ironically, most of the respondents (80%) claimed it was not only “difficult,” but sometimes “near impossible” to concentrate on traffic and road conditions without music playing. And once they arrive, most of the respondents will stay in their car at their destination until the song ends.
Almost all drivers (97%), report listening to many short songs on long trips, and 65% played fast-paced music while driving to work. More than two-thirds (76%) play more “liberating” dance songs when on vacation or a holiday outing and nine in 10 play “upbeat” dance music on the way to a party.
More than three-quarters of the respondents reported that their mood dictates what they choose to listen to when driving. For example, 95% reported that it is most suitable to listen to music if driving when feeling sad; but neither loud music (34%) or soft music (32%) was regarded as more fitting. Further, 97% of the respondents felt that if driving when feeling tired, it was better to listen to music rather than to drive in silence, and the most suitable music selections were stimulative pieces rather than relaxing melodies.
If driving when feeling upset, according to most participants, it was best to listen to music rather than drive without music. Fully 62% felt that loud music was best when feeling distressed. Almost seven in 10 drivers reported that in-car music listening allows them to concentrate in every type of traffic condition and road type. Although 60% also admitted that singing does little to facilitate driver attention, 82% felt that karaoke does not interfere with concentration.
Finally, although 80% felt that ‘drumming’ on the steering wheel impedes driver attentiveness and might hamper driver performance, the novice drivers were significantly more committed to the notion that drumming on the steering wheel enhances vehicular control.
“Social media has exposed young-adult drivers to conflicting messages about the effects of music on driver behavior, and, subsequently, they demonstrate great uncertainty about the effects of music engagement on driver concentration and vehicular control. As a result, young drivers may be more at risk by engaging in music than they perceive,” Brodsky wrote.
“These young drivers believe that more stimulus actually helps their driving abilities,” he concluded. “This could become more of an issue in the future, when it becomes critical to disengage from music and assume control in an autonomous vehicle.”