If you are reading this on a computer, there is a 50% chance that you are wearing, or are within arm’s reach of, a pair of headphones or earbuds.
To visit a modern office place is to walk into a room with a dozen songs playing simultaneously but to hear none of them. Up to half of workers listen to music on their headphones, and the vast majority thinks it makes us better at our jobs. In survey after survey, we report with confidence that music makes us happier, better at concentrating, and more productive.
Science says we’re full of it. Listening to music hurts our ability to recall other stimuli, and any pop song — loud or soft — reduces overall performance for both extraverts and introverts. A Taiwanese study linked music with lyrics to lower scores on concentration tests for college students, and other research have shown music with words scrambles our brains’ verbal-processing skills. “As silence had the best overall performance it would still be advisable that people work in silence,” one report dryly concluded.
If headphones are so bad for productivity, why do so many people at work have headphones? And why are our bosses letting us drive ourselves to distraction?
- Roman divorce was quick and easy. Either party merely uttered to the other the Latin phrase “Tuas res tibi habeto.” (“Keep what’s yours for yourself.”) If there were any children, they remained with the father, though the dowry was returned to the woman provided she had not committed adultery….