LISTENING to rock music appears to have a negative effect on the concentration of members of the public while playing the popular board game Operation, according to the results of a new study.
At the Imperial Festival hosted by Imperial College London, London, UK earlier this year, a team of researchers looked at whether music can support, or hinder, the surgical skills of medically untrained individuals. They invited 352 visitors at the festival, 184 men and 143 women, with no formal surgical training, to play Operation. This board game involves using tweezers to remove different body parts from a pretend patient without touching the metal sides of the body.
The participants were randomised so that while playing the board game they would either listen to classical music by Mozart, rock music by AC/DC, or the sound of an operating theatre. The research team then measured how long it took each participant to remove three body parts and how many mistakes they made according to how many times they touched the metal sides.
The results showed that men listening to rock music had a significantly slower operating speed, with a mean average of 80.8 seconds (s). This was compared to the average time taken by men listening to classical music and the sounds of an operating theatre, with times of 66.2 s and 64.7 s, respectively. Men who listened to rock music also made more mistakes, at an average of 35.7, than those who listened to classical music (27.5 mistakes) and those who heard the sounds of an operating theatre (28.1 mistakes). With regards to the operating speed and operation mistakes, the researchers found that none of the music or sounds had any significant effect on the performance of women although they did spend more time removing the objects.
Dr Daisy Fancourt, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, and lead author of the study, said: “Although this study is clearly tongue-in-cheek, and was all performed in our spare time, it is part of our wider research into the effect of music on performance – particularly in a medical setting such as an operating theatre.”
In the paper, the authors note that music is played between 62% and 72% of the time in theatre and numerous studies have reported beneficial effects of music on surgical performance. However, other research has found the potentially negative impact of music, with one study showing that 26% of anaesthetists reported that music reduced their vigilance.
Jack Redden, Reporter