Cross-Sectional Studies Investigating the Impacts of Background Sounds on Cognitive Task Performance

  • Deborah Cockerham
  • Lin LinEmail author
  • Zhengsi Chang
  • Mike Schellen
Part of the Educational Communications and Technology: Issues and Innovations book series (ECTII)


This chapter synthesizes findings from a series of five studies examining the impacts of different background sounds on cognitive task performance. Four out of the five studies compared background sounds of silence, white noise (rain), calm music without lyrics (Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalize, Op. 34”), and fast, energetic music without lyrics (Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing”). The other study examined task performance under different musical tempos (fast, slow) and pitches (high, low). Cognitive load and academic domain (arithmetic, language, spatial) varied between studies. Findings indicated that, in general, the participants performed better on lower cognitive load tasks while listening to fast music. Performance on tasks with higher cognitive loads did not vary significantly by different listening backgrounds. Implications and future directions are discussed.


Listening backgrounds Music White noise Environments Learning Cross-disciplinary 



The authors wish to thank our research assistants and volunteers, Claire Nicolas, Katie Hervey, Lauren Nolan, Tori Short, Charlie Metcalf, Tasneem Alqahtani, Alshaima Almarwai, Ken Cockerham, Maria Balduf, Joanne Wu, and Will Whitaker, for their assistance with conducting the study and organizing data. We also wish to thank the Research and Learning Center at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History for their hospitality and continued support.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Cockerham
    • 1
  • Lin Lin
    • 2
    Email author
  • Zhengsi Chang
    • 3
  • Mike Schellen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Learning Technologies, Fort Worth Museum of Science and HistoryUniversity of North TexasFort WorthUSA
  2. 2.University of North TexasDentonUSA
  3. 3.University of Texas at DallasDentonUSA

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