Swerve to mellow music for safer driving

Next time you feel a bit of road rage coming on, reach for the radio – quickly. 

Press Release Ergonomics
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00140139.2013.825013 - link live from 30/08/2013

Date of issue: 19/08/2013

EMBARGOED UNTIL: 30/08/2013 00.01am

Switch to mellow music for safer driving

Next time you feel a bit of road rage coming on, reach for the radio – quickly.

A study just published in the journal Ergonomics suggests that a quick change to more downbeat music is the most effective way to calm down while driving in stressful conditions.

Academics (and drivers) have long known that music can influence mood and driving styles. More accidents occur when drivers listen to ‘upbeat’ music, possibly because of the demands the music makes on drivers’ attention, or because the music urges drivers to go faster. Calmer music, in contrast, is more relaxing, and leads to safer motoring.

With this in mind, the authors of the Ergonomics study wanted to find out whether a quick or gradual change of music was most effective in bringing about a change of mood. Those taking part in the study tackled demanding driving conditions in a simulator while listening to carefully graded and controlled music; several of their physiological conditions were also recorded to measure relaxation levels. Researchers also noted the number of ‘accidents’ or mistakes they made during the various trials.

The results showed that although those who switched to calmer music abruptly and gradually both reached the same level of calmness in the end, those whose music was changed quickly got there faster and had fewer ‘accidents’ along the way. This leads the authors to conclude that “during high-demand driving, abrupt changes in music led to more physiological calmness and improved driving performance and were thus safer and more effective.”

The authors note that their discovery has implications beyond road safety. It could certainly lead the way for the development of an ‘intelligent music player’ that monitors a driver’s mood, changing the tunes accordingly to reduce stress and improve driving performance. But such a system could also be used in an office or hospital setting to encourage or relax listeners.

This fascinating study confirms that in-car music is more than just background noise. But whether today’s boy racers will switch – quickly – to Easy Listening in the name of road safety is another matter entirely.

Notes for editors:

Please reference the article as “Using music to change mood while driving”, by Marjolein D. van der Zwaag, Joris H. Janssen, Clifford Nass, Joyce H.D.M. Westerink, Shrestha Chowdhury & Dick de Waard, Ergonomics , published by Taylor & Francis.

* Read the full article, free of charge, online: at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00140139.2013.825013 - link live from 30/08/2013. Email benjamin.hudson@tandf.co.uk for more details prior to this date.

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Ben Hudson, Engineering, Computer Science and Technology journals, Taylor & Francis
email: benjamin.hudson@tandf.co.uk

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Taylor & Francis Group partners with researchers, scholarly societies, universities and libraries worldwide to bring knowledge to life. As one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works our content spans all areas of Humanities, Social Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Science, and Technology and Medicine. From our network of offices in Oxford, New York, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Stockholm, New Delhi and Johannesburg, Taylor & Francis staff provide local expertise and support to our editors, societies and authors and tailored, efficient customer service to our library colleagues.

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