Rock music too distracting for men

Real-life surgeons would be best-advised to avoid rock music in the theatre.
Real-life surgeons would be best-advised to avoid rock music in the theatre.

Rock music is too distracting for men to listen to as they work because of the speed of the rhythm, said a scientist.

A study found listening to Mozart or other classical music boosts men’s concentration - while like AC/DC puts them off.

Dr Daisy Fancourt, of Imperial College London, said: “Rock is upbeat whereas classical is more quiet and repetitive.

“It could simply be it has a calming influence on the mind when men are trying to concentrate.

“Rock on the other hand is distracting because it’s rhythms are very fast so it’s harder to think about other things while it’s playing.”

But the study found music has no effect on women’s performance - possibly because their brains are wired differently.

In the study 352 visitors at the annual Imperial Festival science show were invited to play Operation which involves removing various body parts from ‘Cavity Sam’.

The pretend patient’s nose flashes and buzzes if the tweezers touch the metal sides of the body.

The volunteers wore headphones that played one of three tracks - Andante from Sonata for Two Pianos by Mozart, Thunderstruck by AC/DC or the sound of an operating theatre.

The team then timed them how long it took the participants to remove three body parts - as well as tracking their mistakes.

In the men Thunderstruck triggered around 36 mistakes on average while the Sonata and operating theatre noises caused 28. It took volunteers around one minute to complete the task.

Dr Fancourt said: “Interestingly women performed better than men in the study but that could be just because it was a fun, public engagement experiment.

“However the music they were listening to made no difference to how they did.

“Research has shown men and women respond differently to music so that could be behind this finding.”

Dr Fancourt said she herself prefers to work in silence when she is having to concentrate hard - although she does sometimes have music on in the lab during the afternoon as a pick-me-up.

She said: “We have different tastes in the office so there is no particular genre that is preferred.

“But we do sometimes have music on. It’s important to engage the public in the value of music.

“Studies have shown it can help surgeons during delicate procedures in the operating theatre - and even improve patients’ recovery. There’s a lot of research going on in this field.”

The study is published in the Medical Journal of Australia’s Christmas issue where it won top prize for quirky - yet scientifically rigorous - research.