Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences Psychology Research Units Environmental Psychology

Music and Driving

Social Psychology

In the PhD project Music and Driving, we examined the influence of music and the radio on cognitive processes, arousal and driving performance. Notably, in a series of experiments with the driving simulator, we studied how music and the radio are being handled while driving in high and low demand traffic environments (e.g. busy or empty roads). Our findings showed that music and the radio do not impair driving performance. Yet, this is achieved by employing certain cognitive compensatory strategies while driving on busy roads, such as blocking out auditory distractions or investing more mental effort on the driving task while listening to music and the radio. Our findings further suggest that driving performance might even improve when driving on rather empty roads in the presence of music. In such low-demand environments, music and the radio seem to increase arousal to optimal, thereby making the driver somewhat more vigilant in boring road conditions. Our studies point out the importance of taking the (driving) context into account when investigating the cognitive, affective and behavioural effects of secondary tasks or distractions.

Researchers and partners

University of Groningen, outside of Behavioural and Socials Sciences


Courses connected to this project
  • B2-4 Social environment and behaviour, PSB3E Consumer and Economic Psychology
Selection of BA and MA student projects
  • The effects of music on driving performance, How does complexity of music affect driving speed?
  • Blocking out auditory distractions while driving, The effect of music on driving performance of introverts and extroverts


  • Unal, A. B., De Ward, D., Epstude, K., & Steg, L. (2013). Driving with music: Effects on arousal and performance. Transportation Research Part F, 21, 52-65.
  • Unal, A. B., Platteel, S., Steg, L., & Epstude, K. (2013). Blocking-out the radio content: A cognitive strategy to reduce task-demands while listening to the radio and driving. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 50, 934?942.
  • Unal, A. B., Steg, L., & Epstude, K. (2012). The influence of music on mental effort and driving performance. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 48, 271?278.
Successful grant proposals and other achievements
  • Mind-sets: Mobility Innovations for a New Dawn in Sustainable (European) Transport Systems (Horizon2020)
Last modified:29 March 2021 10.17 a.m.
printView this page in: Nederlands