Music and Teamwork

The Claim:

Music is a universal form of communication and expression that plays a huge part in culture, religion, entertainment, and the world as a whole. People listen to music to get their energy up at the gym. Dancers rely on music to keep a steady beat and inspire choreography. Some students find listening to music positively effective when studying. Warm-up songs are played at sporting events to prepare the players and rile up the crowd. Without music, a jack-in-the-box wouldn’t know when to come out of the box! There is a theme that I am getting at: music seemingly helps with focus and fluidity. So what if we took this magical thing called music and put it in a group setting? Would it cause the same focus and fluidity among a team? I came across a study that claims that in a work environment, teamwork within a group is heightened when music is being played.


Suggestive Correlations:

  1. Music → Teamwork (direct causality)…..what is believed to be happening
  2. Music ← Teamwork (reverse causality)….in this case reverse causality would be ruled out because teamwork would not cause music to be played
  3. Music ← Z → Teamwork (confounding/3rd variable)….this may be a stretch but I feel like this could only really make sense if the z variable were something related to a type of work such as a dance team, a choir, musical theater, etc…. But since this study is generalized…I would probably rule this one out
  4. Chance… always can be a possibility

The Experiment:

Researchers at Cornell University conducted two studies on how music can influence teamwork in employees. Split into groups of 3, the volunteers were given tokens that they could either keep for their own collective benefit OR put them towards the good of the group as a whole.

Study #1:

The first study tested two different types of music. As the participants worked in their groups, background music was played in an alternation between happy/cheery/familiar songs and sad/dark/unfamiliar songs.

The Results:

Positive music→ more likely to give tokens to the group   (by approx ⅓ more)

Negative music→ more likely to hold on to their tokens

Study #2:

The second study had a control group and an experimental group. This time, as the participants worked in their groups, there was an alternation between happy/cheerful/familiar songs and no music at all.

The Results:  (same as first study)

Positive music→ more likely to give tokens to the group  (by approx ⅓ more)

Negative music→ more likely to hold on to their tokens

Suggested Improvement:

In conclusion of this experiment, evidence supported that, yes, music did influence the participants to contribute more for the good of the group. However, the results showed that playing distasteful music in a work setting strengthened teamwork just as much as playing no music at all. Thus, the leading claim that music increases cooperation is not necessarily completely correct. The hypothesis that evidence actually supported was that if you play cheerful music in a collaborative group setting, teamwork progresses among workers.

Turn it up:

Although there is no clear mechanism proven as to why positive music amplifies teamwork, it is safe to say that joyful music can unite a group of colleagues at work. Knowing this, would I play Justin Bieber’s new song “Let me Love you” during my next group project collaboration? Oh yes.






1 thought on “Music and Teamwork

  1. Cole Donald Rogers

    I felt as though this blog was very precise and gave all the content without having to add filler. The effect music has on us in so many facets of life is remarkable and I am not surprised to find out specific music correlates with different behavior, such a unity. Music as a beneficial has an everlasting effect and can be found everywhere. To play more into the subject of music and working with groups how do you think music effects an individual? Typical hypothesis suggest listening to classical music helps focus while studying, well do you think that is right? Here is an article that pertains to both those questions:
    The Impact of Listening to Music on Cognitive Performance

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