Is your music making you late to class?

I wouldn’t be able to put a number on how many Penn State students listen to music while walking to class without taking conducting some type of poll. However, I would bet it is at least 40% of students who listen to music while on their way to class. It seems everywhere I go I see Apple Earpods or Beats by Dre inside or on top of the ears of students. I don’t know about you, but when I walk to class I always have my headphones on. Kanye West has been instrumental in helping me get to class so far this semester.


On Monday I was late to my 11:00 AM class. This class is in the Sackett building, on the other side of campus from my residence. I left my dorm with plenty of time left, about 30 minutes, yet I was still late. I did not get lost on my way to the building, nor did I stop to talk with any of my peers. All I did was plug in my Earpods and walked to class. One thing I did differently than previous ventures to class was listen to artists like the Beatles and Stevie Wonder when walking to class rather than listen to Kanye West. This is certainly a drastic change of music.

After this experience I wondered, was it the type of music that made me late? Did the music cause me to walk slower? I decided to look into this, and found a study by Marek Franěk, Leon van Noorden, and Lukáš Režný.

In this study the scientists had people walk a route in a neighborhood that was 1.8 km (Franěk 2014). They made two experiments, with one experiment listening to pop music (Franěk 2014). They had them listen to pop music because it has a clear beat (Franěk 2014). The other experiment had people listened to motivational music and also non motivational music (Franěk 2014). The motivational  music has a faster tempo as well as a strong rhythm (Franěk 2014).  The non motivational music was slow music, and sounded much nicer (Franěk 2014).texting-crossing-street-ben-pipe-photography-cultura-gettyimages-530021695-56a9d7bb3df78cf772ab09ba

The scientists found that beat does indeed make you walk faster. Those who walked to the pop music and motivational music walked faster than those who listened to the non motivational music. While the subjects did not walk to the beat of the music (only a few instances), they did walk faster with more up tempo music.

Height is of course a huge variable in this study. So could height be a confounding variable? Well, to account for the differences in height of the 121 students, the students were randomly put into the different music genre groups. Randomization helps to limit any confounding variables because there are many types of people. This is because randomization spreads characteristics around. People are inherently different. They come in all different shapes and sizes. By randomizing the selections, confounding variables are limited.

Bias could be a problem in this experiment, however. Because people know they are walking, this could easily effect their strides. If I were doing the experiment, I would set it up the same way. However, I would not tell those participating in it that their speed was being tested. I would tell them that I was testing something that would not effect their normal movement. By telling the participants I was measuring, say, if their phone battery is effected by travel and music, they would have no idea that I was actually measuring how fast they walked and their bias would be extremely limited.

Nonetheless, every study, no matter how well conducted, could be a fluke or due to chance. This is a rather small study. It certainly isn’t minuscule or anecdotal, but it is still only over 100 people. This could easily be a fluke, even if it was well conducted. There needs to be more studies done on this. Many, many more studies. The prayer study we looked at in class is a perfect example. The science was done correctly and extremely well, yet after more studies were done other scientists found different conclusions. I am not saying this study is wrong, as it certainly helps explain why I was late to class, but one can not simply take the word of one study. I look forward to finding more studies on this topic that help substantiate the three scientists’s conclusion. Until then, keep enjoying your tunes.


11 thoughts on “Is your music making you late to class?

  1. tmv5147

    This is an all-around great post. I don’t usually listen to music in the morning mostly because I’m still half asleep and the only thing I’m worried about is getting coffee and making the bus. Sometimes in the afternoon when I see my headphones there I’ll grab them on the way out and listen to some music. This study was very interesting because I rarely listen to music and walk pretty fast, but I have never experienced a drastic change in pace when I do. It would be interesting to see if they separated the taller people from the shorter and gave the taller people slower more relaxing music to listen to and then the shorter people upbeat music, just makes me wonder if they would walk at a similar pace. I do think another aspect of this topic could be discussed in that, does music make you a more relaxed walker. You’ll see some people walking in your direction with a full head of steam and by the time you realize it you have to jump out of the way for them. Then on the other hand you have the people listening to music just focused on their song and getting on where they need to go, they’re tuned out.

  2. Anna Strahle

    Very interesting topic! Recently I lost my headphones, and I noticed that it took me so much longer to get to class than it did when I did have my headphones. I agree with you that it is because I would walk to the beat of the music. To go along with that, I feel like when I would listen to music in the morning it would put me in a better mood on my way to class. Whereas now, I can feel my feet dragging up the hill across Old Main to my 9 AM. There was a study done by the Journal of Psychology in 2013 that concluded that upbeat music has the power to lighten our overall mood and outlook within only 2 weeks! With a positive perspective, you have a higher chance of improved health, income, and personal relationships. Music clearly makes the world a better place.

  3. Asaad Saleh Salim Al Busaidi

    I agree with you that the study could have many third variables and that it should be a placebo study so that students do not become worried about the fact that the researchers were measuring their speed. In addition, I think that the study did not provide any evidence for the mechanism nor published the statistics. However, I think that it has eliminated the possibility of reverse causation by doing a controlled experiment instead of an observation. Also, I think the study does not suffer from the Taxes Shooter Problem Problem since they just measured the speed. Overall, I did not find the study results to be convincing due to the small number of subjects tested, and will thus not change the type of music that I listen to. This a link that shows a correlation between music and the speed of running. The study suggests that there is a correlation between running fast and listening to music. However, the study claims that the reason people run faster when they listen to music than when they do not listen to it is because the motivation that people may get from listening to music and not because music itself.

  4. Margaret Marchok

    Charles- great post. I must admit, when I am on campus, I am almost always listening to music. When walking, I feel as though music helps keep me company and makes the walk more pleasant. When doing school work, listening to music keeps me from getting bored and keeps me motivated to do schoolwork. I just wanted to comment on the study you included in your post. I thought it was a really great study and was very credible. I loved how they randomized people of different heights in order to eliminate the confounding variable of height differences. I thought this was a great idea and gave the study a ton of credibility. Also, I can relate to this study a lot. When I run, I listen to upbeat rock-and-roll or rap music. It keeps me motivated and encourages me to keep going. I think music can be a huge factor when you are doing things that require moving fast.

  5. Joe Garrett

    I thought this was a very interesting topic since I usually do listen to music whenever I am walking to class, or somewhere else on campus or downtown. I usually find myself listening to upbeat music with a quicker tempo, which could be one of the reasons I seem to make pretty good time whenever I am walking somewhere. I have also noticed that I definitely ride my bike faster when I am listening to music, and especially upbeat music, versus not listening to any music. I also thought that your post was well-written and well-explained using terms from our class.

  6. Samuel Sae Jong Lee

    Hi Charles,
    I appreciated the topic of your blog as it is a relevant topic for everyday music loving students walking to class. This topic goes hand in hand with the science behind cycling classes listening to upbeat music as to classical music. I liked how you had clear X (genre of music) and Y (pace of walk) variables as well as outside Z (height of individual) variables and backed your hypothesis with a study. I felt the blog was written well and you successfully analyzed the question and supported your reasoning.

    Sammy Lee

  7. Gulianna E Garry

    This is a really interesting topic that I never really thought much into, but know that you explained it, I agree that music has an effect on how you walk. Whenever I walk to my 9 am I usually listen to softer music instead of upbeat music. It usually takes me a 10 to 12 minute walk to get to the Ferguson building. The next time I have a 9 am I plan to walk with more upbeat music to see if it changes my time to get to class. Music has such an impact in everyday tasks that we often don’t even realize. This link explains how music benefits the brain. Enjoy!

  8. Isaac Chandler Orndorff

    Very interesting topic! I would definitely add your alternate and null hypotheses to the argument, but you had a lot of class material so I’m glad for that. Personally, I enjoy a lot of 60’s-80’s music over current music, and recently I’ve been either going with Bob Dylan or The Goo Goo Dolls. Being that all of my classes are around 15 minutes away walking, I always get there around the same time, give or take 2-3 mintues. Therefore, I don’t think there’s a correlation between music and walking speed. I’m a tall guy (6’3), so maybe I’m just tall enough to outweigh the decrease in speed, but I still would say it doesn’t affect my walking speed.

  9. jgb5274

    I am usually the person that listens to music on the way to class and tunes everything else out. I have never been late to class on days I listen to music on the way, but I do think it is a major distraction and can easily cause someone to be late depending on what you listen to. Could it also affect your mood entering class by listening to certain music? Here are a few studies that show what upbeat music vs. sad music can do to a person based off their current mood.

  10. Darby Helen Smith

    This blog caught my attention because I am one of those people who listens to music every time I am walking to class. I usually leave for my classes at the same time everyday. However, sometimes I am early for class and sometimes I find myself arriving a little bit late. After reading this post I am a little bit convinced that music has something to do with this!! My favorite types of music range from rap like Kanye West to soft rock like the Lumineers. Therefore, this could be a probable cause! I found an article that talks about a possible mechanism for this theory. The mechanism is that the beats per minute in a song effects speed.


  11. Natalie Elizabeth Burns

    I really enjoyed this article because you set up your question very well. You used a lot of the terms and strategies we talked about in class to make sure this question / experiment was valid. I personally do not know if I agree with this because I usually listen to country music, which is not the most upbeat, and I end up to class rather early. As you said, this could be a fluke or there could be many cofounding variables. For example, I could just be a fast walker or the fact that I am taller could play a role. All in all, I think you posed a very good question and I would be interested to see if this actually plays a role in the speed of walking.

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