Listening to music reduces eye movements

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Two different durations were used because participants were also asked to estimate the stimulus duration. Those data are not reported in this article, however.

  2. 2.

    Although we had planned to gather absorption data from all of the participants, we got only this random selection due to a technical problem.

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Schäfer, T., Fachner, J. Listening to music reduces eye movements. Atten Percept Psychophys 77, 551–559 (2015). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-014-0777-1

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Keywords

  • Eye movements
  • Music
  • Music preference
  • Absorption
  • Attention