Is there any scientific research on impact of listening music when working to performance and quality of programming work?

It seems some employers consider listening to music as a negative condition.

  • Lots of comments here about site scope and other related questions - The Workplace Meta is the best place for those. This conversation has been moved to chat as well. Thanks!
    – enderland
    Dec 11, 2015 at 14:22
  • 2
    It's a matter of opinion, perception, and company policy. Whatever your boss says is what you should be doing. If you disagree you can try to persuade them otherwise, but remember that they make the rules. As for whether listening to music affects your productivity ... you know that best. Does it?
    – AndreiROM
    Dec 11, 2015 at 14:49
  • My past workplace was an open office. Music definitely helped me in concentrating when sometimes other people talks
    – user10125
    Dec 14, 2015 at 11:10

1 Answer 1


There has been a lot of work regarding this question.

The results have been negative with regards to listening unfamiliar music.

Music which lack lyrics are proved to be more effective when it comes to improving productivity and getting things done.

There is this famous research work by Teresa Lesiuk. The abstract of the paper is self-explanatory:

ABSTRACT This study measured the effect of music listening on state positive affect, work quality and time-on-task of computer information systems developers. Effects of music on work performance, in this case, software design, may be explained by increases in state positive affect. Data from 56 (male = 41, female = 15) developers were obtained from four different Canadian software companies. Data were collected in the participants’ actual work environments over five weeks. Results indicated that state positive affect and quality-of-work were lowest with no music, while time-on-task was longest when music was removed. Narrative responses revealed the value of music listening for positive mood change and enhanced perception on design while working. Evidence is provided of the presence of a learning curve in the use of music for positive mood alteration. Overall, the study contributes to the development of a model that aspires to elucidate music and workplace interactions; as well, it has implications for organizational practice.

Having said that, listening to music is multi-tasking and can affect your concentration and cognition, according to these articles:

Don’t fool yourself: Listening to music means that you are multitasking. Any cognitive resources that your brain expends—on understanding lyrics, processing emotions that are triggered by a song, or remembering where you were when you first heard it—won’t be available to help you work.


If you already knew the lyrics of the song, then the brain doesn't need to make efforts to understand and learn them, so you can focus on being productive, and much better, it cuts out unnecessary noise around.

But, if you don't know the lyrics, then your brain is doing multi-tasking: trying to work and trying to understand the lyrics.

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    It would be great to know how much influence noise have on the outcome. The sample of 56 developers seems insignificant, especially when only from 4 software companies. Single rooms as work places with closed doors and no telephone or email alerts as opposed to open space offices or cubicles with a mixture of functions (sales, marketing, development in one room) would certainly change the outcome. Dec 10, 2015 at 8:13
  • @malach Yeah, I do agree with you that the population chosen is insignificant and can be biased. However, that's the only piece of literature I've found regarding this domain. :)
    – Dawny33
    Dec 10, 2015 at 8:18
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    ... Any cognitive resources that your brain expends ... won’t be available to help you work. I don't buy this part. If I have no earphones on, the sounds of my neighbors, the sounds of the HVAC, etc are also being processed by my ears+brain. Since I hear my alarm when I sleep, I think I can be pretty sure that my ears, and brain is processing sound pretty much always.
    – Zoredache
    Dec 10, 2015 at 21:29
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    @Zoredache if you're just trying to ignore the music you listen to like you ignore the HVAC then why do you want it?
    – user42272
    Dec 11, 2015 at 4:38
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    @djechlin The difference is most likely due to familiarity. If you're familiar with your music, your brain will spend less time being distracted by it. The other noises would be distracting if you have particular sensitivity to it, like the sharp whirling sound of the HVAC or the particular words in nearby conversation. I'm ok with HVAC. I am absolutely unable to concentrate if there are conversations around me because I can pick up all the words and I'll naturally follow their conversations.
    – Nelson
    Dec 11, 2015 at 6:55

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