Under the Hood

Women Are Less Distracted By Music In The Workplace Than Men

Male surgeons perhaps shouldn’t listen to music while they are operating on people — a new study indicates that not all men are as good as Doctor Strange when the volume is turned up. Women are another story.

The report in the Medical Journal of Australia says women are less distracted by music than men are, particulary when rock and roll is involved. Researchers had about 350 people with no surgical training play the board game Operation — using tweezers to remove small plastic pieces resembling body parts from inside the board without touching the board itself — while wearing noise-canceling headphones. Those headphones played either Australian rock band AC/DC’s song Thunderstruck, Mozart’s Andante from Sonata for two pianos — “well known for its apparent beneficial effects on concentration and intellect (known as the Mozart effect) — or just normal sounds from an operating room.

Women removed three plastic organs at the same speeds no matter what was playing, but men went slower when rock or classical music was on, although men who particularly enjoyed the classical music were slightly better off than the rockstars. The ladies also made fewer mistakes than the gentlemen while listening to music.

Read: This Is Your Brain When You Multitask

“Rock music impairs the performance of men but not women,” the study says, regardless of whether the subjects enjoy rock music. “Men are advised not to listen to rock music when either operating or playing board games.”

Although the people who participated were not actually surgeons, the findings could be important to that medical field. According to the study, music is played 62 to 72 percent of the time in operating rooms and men are more likely to listen to music than women, with classical music the most popular. Although some studies have found benefits to music in surgery, such as Jamaican music and hip-hop increasing the speed and efficiency of robot-assisted laparoscopic surgeries, “there have also been accounts of dark and dangerous effects of music in operating theatres, with 26 percent of anaesthetists reporting that music reduced their vigilance.”

doctor-79579_1920 Surgeons often play music in the operating room, but a new study suggests men do a worse job when music is playing. Image courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

Time reports that men may perform worse with music playing because they might be more susceptible to something called auditory stress, in which “perception is affected by loud or discordant music.”

The researchers noted in their study, however, that the results are limited in that there were only two music selections, and they didn’t have the same tempo — “it therefore remains uncertain whether the genre itself or just the speed of music is responsible for the effects noted.” And other genres, like electronic or jazz music, may produce different results.

“This study suggests that for men who are operating or playing a board game, rock music may be a bad idea,” lead author Dr. Daisy Fancourt told Time.

Source: Fancourt D, Burton TMW and Williamon A. The razor’s edge: Australian rock music impairs men’s performance when pretending to be a surgeon. Medical Journal of Australia. 2016.

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