Despite the results causing the acceptance of the null hypothesis, it is apparent that music can influence perception of time whilst exercising. Indeed, the high significance (P) value obtained when comparing the perception of time when listening to high tempo music against the perception time when listening to low tempo music, opposed to the relatively lower P value obtained when testing either of the two music conditions against the no music condition, suggests that music may have an influence on time perception. The P value obtained when comparing the low tempo music to the no music condition was lower than when comparing the high tempo music condition to the no music control. This indicated that low tempo music had a greater influence on time perception.
A possible explanation is that the music produced a relaxed physiological state. Work by Szmedra and Bacharach (1998) concluded that music induced physiological relaxation during exercise, noticeably observing reduced heart rate and blood pressure. It must be noted that Vercruyssen et al. (1989) had previously dismissed heart rate as an affecter of time perception, but did propose that physiological arousal provoked by exercise does produce variation in the perception of time.
In very early work, Hoagland (1933) cites work by Axel (1925) in which the influences of perception of time can be separated into three categories. Motor activity causes time to be perceived to be longest, complex cognitive activities result in time being perceived to be of the shortest duration, and sensory motor skills causing the perceived length of time to lie within the continuum. This would suggest that the more deliberation over a cognitive stimulus, for example music, the shorter the participants perceived the duration of time. This was not observed in the present study.
This study failed to demonstrate statistical significant differences. The difficulty in producing statistical difference is highlighted by previous research into the effect of music also failing to producing significant results. This is possibly due to the subjective nature of participant music preference, as proposed by Karageorghis (1999) only the ‘right’ type of music will produce motivation.
The music selection of the present study was in accordance with a generic assumption that “dance music is preferred by 16-24 years olds” (Copeland and Franks, 1991). To consider possible participant difference of music preference, a questionnaire was used (c.f. Karageorghis et al., 1999). A Wilcoxon signed ranks test was performed using SPSS14.0 and found that participants significantly preferred (P = 0.022, <0.05) the fast tempo music whilst exercising. This would suggest that a greater difference in perception of time and actual time would be present in the high tempo music condition. As this was not the case it is possible that there were further confounding variables affecting the participants perception of time.
One such confounding variable encountered was participant fatigue prior to participation. This was due to prior participation in unrelated studies. Hoagland (1933) referred to fatigue as an internal cue providing the foundation of time estimation although presenting little supporting evidence. Preferably, the participants should be screened for fatigue and only rested participant would be used.
Additionally, participants had varying levels of treadmill experience. All participants had a pre-test familiarization run on the treadmill. However, for some the novel nature of treadmill running and associated new stimuli experienced could possibly have overridden any effects of the music. Consequently, variation in time perception could have been due to different levels of ease and treadmill experience. In order to improve this area of study the sample should have similar, preferably high levels of treadmill experience.
The attainment of insignificant results could be caused because of the exercise duration. All tests were longer than three minutes, thus allowing the participant to reach a physiological steady state and theoretically controlling extraneous physiological influences (Hagberg et al., 1978, cited in Davrancbe and Audiffren, 2004). Nonetheless, an increased duration of exercise would have amplified the variation between the perceived and actual duration, resulting in a greater chance of achieving significant differences. However, increased exercise duration may cause exercise-induced fatigue and will negatively affect perception of time resulting in participants under estimating actual time duration (Hoagland, 1933).
Whilst all efforts were made, it is entirely possible that external stimuli unrelated to this study, predominantly students and other participants walking around the laboratory, could have influenced the results. Future experiments should be conducted in a closed laboratory with only the researchers present.
As proposed by Hoagland (1933) variances of temperature can alter neural activity, consequently affecting cognitive processes. Therefore, a raised body temperature because of illness or recent physical activity could have an effect on time perception. Improvements would involve the use of tighter participant screening to test only rested participants.
It is theoretical that participants would use music to disassociate away from the unpleasant feeling of fatigue (Karageorghis, 1999). Consequently, music may have a larger effect on perception of time whilst experiencing fatigue. Regarding future studies, it is worthy to suggest work into the effect of music on perception of time during longer duration exercise. This would provide the opportunity to measure the extent to which dissociation affects perception of time and possibly affect other cognitive processes. The study should use either an increased time duration or exercise intensity to induce fatigue. However, the participants must be carefully selected ensuring equal levels of fitness, subsequently experiencing similar levels of fatigue.
In order to stabilise cognitive variables, future tests should incorporate all experimental conditions into one treadmill test (Coren et al., 1999). The participant should estimate the time duration of each experimental condition. The order in which the three music conditions are presented should be randomized between participants to prevent learning effects and expressed judgement of time errors (Bakan and Kleba, 1957).
Take away message
It would be expected listening to music would cause the athletes to feel that they are exercising for shorter durations than they actually are. The present study failed to demonstrate this. This may be due to the discussed limitations however it did offer partial evidence that listening to music lengthens the perceived time spent exercising. This suggests that when performing short term cardio conditioning exercise it may be beneficial to refrain from using music, however the motivational and arousal inducing benefits are likely to outweigh the benefit elicited from the athletes perceiving they are exercising from a shorter time.
Axel, R. (1925). Estimation of Time. Arch. Psychol.,12,17. (cited in Hoagland, H., 1933, The Physiological Control of Judgments of Duration: Evidence for a Chemical Clock. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 9, 267-287).
Bakan, P. and Kleba, F. (1957). Reliability of Time Estimates. Journal Of Perceptual and Motor Skills, 7, 23-24.
Copeland, B.L. and Franks, B.D. (1991). Effects of types and intensities of background music on treadmill endurance. Journal of Sport Medicine and Physical Fitness, 31, 100-103.
Coren, S., Ward, L.M. and Ennis, J.T. (1999). Sensations and Perception, fifth edition.
Hoagland, H., (1933). The Physiological Control of Judgments of Duration: Evidence for a Chemical Clock. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 9, 267-287.
Karageorghis, C.I. (1999). Music in Sport and Exercise: Theory and Practice. The Sport Journal, 2(2).
Karageorghis, C.I., Terry, P.C. and Lane, A.M. (1999). Development and initial validation of an instrument to assess the motivational qualities of music in exercise and sport: The Brunel Music Rating Inventory. Journal of Sport Sciences, 17, 713-724.
Szmedra, L. and Bacharach, D.W. (1998). Effect of Music on Perceived Exertion, Plasma Lactate, Norepinephrine and Cardiovascular Hemodynamics during Treadmill Running. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 19, 32-37.
Vercruyssen, M., Hancock, P.A. and Mihaly, T. (1989). Time Estimation Performance Before, During, and Following Physical Activity. Journal of Human Ergology, 18,169-179.
Effect of Music on the Perception of Exercise Duration (Pt 2),