There is an established and growing body of evidence highlighting that music can influence behavior across a range of diverse domains (Miell, MacDonald, & Hargreaves 2005). One area of interest is the monitoring of "internal timing mechanisms", with features such as tempo, liking, perceived affective nature and everyday listening contexts implicated as important (North & Hargreaves, 2008). The current study addresses these issues by comparing the effects of self-selected and experimenter-selected music (fast and slow) on actual and perceived performance of a driving game activity. Seventy participants completed three laps of a driving game in seven sound conditions: (1) silence; (2) car sounds; (3) car sounds with self-selected music, and car sounds with experimenter-selected music; (4) high-arousal (70 bpm); (5) high-arousal (130 bpm); (6) low-arousal (70 bpm); and (7) low-arousal (130 bpm) music. Six performance measures (time, accuracy, speed, and retrospective perception of these), and four experience measures (perceived distraction, liking, appropriateness and enjoyment) were taken. Exposure to self-selected music resulted in overestimation of elapsed time and inaccuracy, while benefiting accuracy and experience. In contrast, exposure to experimenter-selected music resulted in poorest performance and experience. Increasing the tempo of experimenter-selected music resulted in faster performance and increased inaccuracy for high-arousal music, but did not impact experience. It is suggested that personal meaning and subjective associations connected to self-selected music promoted increased engagement with the activity, overriding detrimental effects attributed to unfamiliar, less liked and less appropriate experimenter-selected music.
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