August 03, 2016
By Julia Mossbridge, MA, Ph.D., “Dr. Julia”
Science Director, Focus@Will labs
Summary: This is part three of a series of posts examining how the focus tool Focus@Will works, based on a recent series of experiments. In part one, I explored self-reported focus and described the evidence that the “focused feeling” you get with Focus@Will is actually real. In part two, I described the importance of task persistence and explain how Focus@Will supports persistence without reducing executive function. And in this post, I talk about how your inner space (your thoughts and feelings) are affected by Focus@Will.
Productivity is great, focus is necessary, and persistence is key. I’ve talked about how Focus@Will influences all of these, but today I want to talk about something “fuzzier” — how Focus@Will influences your “inner space.” What’s inner space? It’s the stuff that’s inside, the stuff that other people can’t necessarily see or experience, but that nonetheless motivates and informs every single thing you do. Your inner space includes your thoughts and moods, as well as stuff we don’t talk about as much, like your state of self-transcendence (your ability to connect with something beyond yourself).
We wanted to know how Focus@Will, the scientifically-designed background audio service, influences inner space. As we mentioned previously, new Focus@Will subscribers did an extended series of surveys and tests that allowed us to examine these questions. Half of them listened to music while they did this, and the other half listened to their favorite Focus@Will channel. Then 48-72 hours later, they did everything again – those who listened to Focus@Will the first time now listened to music, and vice versa.
We used self-reports to assess mood, perceived stress, and self-transcendence. In fact, self-reports are the only way to go when trying to figure out something useful about inner space — it’s all we’ve got, since the experience is on the inside! We found no effect of Focus@Will on perceived stress (most people reported low perceived stress with both their own music and Focus@Will). But mood does seem to be affected by listening to Focus@Will, at least as reported on the Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS; Mayer & Gaschke, 1988). The strongest trend was for pleasant mood (versus unpleasant mood) to be heightened in participants when they were listening to Focus@Will as compared to their own music (see figure). We’d need more people to determine if these results hold up, but they were impressive given the number of people we had. This result is not totally surprising, as many users of Focus@Will have mentioned that they feel better in general (not just more productive) when listening to the service, but it is nice to have scientific evidence of that!
Self-transcendence, which can be measured using a survey that determines the extent to which participants agree with statements like, “I experience a deep level of acceptance for the experiences and circumstances of life, regardless of the nature of those experiences” and “I experience a deep level of acceptance for the experiences and circumstances of life, regardless of the nature of those experiences,” was also influenced by Focus@Will, but less impressively so. The average self-transcendence score of participants when they were listening to Focus@Will was higher than those same participants listening to their own music, but the effect is small and we would need more participants to determine whether it is robust.
Overall, these results tell us that in addition to Focus@Will making people more focused and productive, Focus@Will actually makes people feel more pleasant and potentially more expansive.
Next post – how does Focus@Will influence your ability to track events over time?
NOTE: While writing this blog post, I kept focused on my work via the scientifically designed and awesome Water audio channel, one of many such channels created by Focus@Will labs.
About Julia Mossbridge:
I am a parent of a 16-year old composer and a partner to a wonderful human being. I give talks about work engagement, authenticity, and aliveness. I am working on changing the culture of Silicon Valley to move it toward a greater appreciation of the gifts of being human (watch a video of me giving an hour-long talk on this topic). I am the author of Unfolding: The Science of Your Soul’s Work, and my upcoming book co-authored with Imants Baruss, Transcendent Mind: Re-thinking the Science of Consciousness, will be released by the American Psychological Association in August 2016. I am also the Science Director at Focus@Will Labs, Director of the Innovation Lab and a Staff Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and a Visiting Scholar in Psychology at Northwestern University.
Mayer, J. D., & Gaschke, Y. N. (1988). The experience and meta-experience of mood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 102-111.