When you were still at school and had to do homework, did you do it in silence, or did you have the radio or TV on at the same time?
It's something that interests me because when I'm working at home, I've begun to realise that for some projects I nearly always have the radio playing in the background, but for others I work in silence.
As a rule, my default position is to have speech radio playing all day. Living in the UK, that means either BBC Radio 4, or BBC Radio 7. Now these stations play a great variety of content. To be honest, I tune out to a lot of it. It's more of a background noise that I seem to need, rather than me actively engaged in listening to what's on.
Sometimes I'll find that I have been hooked and I'll actually listen carefully, but mostly it's just company.
But this morning I've been doing some more planning and I've done it all in silence. It was only when I got up for a coffee break, that I even realised that the radio was off. So why is it that for some tasks I seem to need background noise, but for others I have to have quiet time?
I used to think it was all to do with how much concentration was required, but I'm not sure that's true. Certainly when I'm copywriting, I do tend to keep the noise low, but not always, and quite often I'll actually play music while I write.
When I was doing my 'A' Levels, I did practically all my revision either listening to the cricket match commentaries or with the late lamented John Peel playing in the background. It didn't seem to do me any harm.
So I'm no nearer an answer. Do you have any ideas? My current 'best bet' is that it has something to do with the mood I'm in rather than the task I'm doing. If I'm happily engaged in something, I'm less bothered about company or distraction, if I'm less connected, I want noise around me. Well it's a theory...
Any budding psychologists out there care to elucidate?