Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 77, Issue 2, pp 551–559 | Cite as

Listening to music reduces eye movements

  • Thomas SchäferEmail author
  • Jörg Fachner


Listening to music can change the way that people visually experience the environment, probably as a result of an inwardly directed shift of attention. We investigated whether this attentional shift can be demonstrated by reduced eye movement activity, and if so, whether that reduction depends on absorption. Participants listened to their preferred music, to unknown neutral music, or to no music while viewing a visual stimulus (a picture or a film clip). Preference and absorption were significantly higher for the preferred music than for the unknown music. Participants exhibited longer fixations, fewer saccades, and more blinks when they listened to music than when they sat in silence. However, no differences emerged between the preferred music condition and the neutral music condition. Thus, music significantly reduces eye movement activity, but an attentional shift from the outer to the inner world (i.e., to the emotions and memories evoked by the music) emerged as only one potential explanation. Other explanations, such as a shift of attention from visual to auditory input, are discussed.


Eye movements Music Music preference Absorption Attention 


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyChemnitz University of TechnologyChemnitzGermany
  2. 2.Department of Music and Performing ArtsAnglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK

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