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Music Wars

Published February 20, 2013 6:00 AM by Scott Warner

Outside my office in the only place in the laboratory where radio reception is possible is a portable stereo on a shelf. Depending on who is working it plays country western or pop rock. Almost always it’s the former, so for the last decade I’ve consistently heard music in the background that drives me crazy.

I’m not complaining. If most of the people working like C&W, that’s great. I’m just saying.

Music in the workplace can cause wars over what plays. At the very least, commercials and announcers are deliberately irritating to catch your attention. NPR is an exception. I recall working evenings on the coast many years ago, listening to NPR. Listening to what you want is a perk of evenings. Once back on days, it was back to fighting over what was on the radio.

The kind of music in the workplace affects productivity in subtle ways. As reported by Business Week, one research firm survey of over a thousand businesses shows that workers believe music is helpful in the workplace. Other research shows more workers like Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger compared to Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know. And a recent Taiwan survey concludes that music with lyrics is worse than without.

I can’t imagine scanning a wet prep to Moves Like Jagger. (Not without smiling, anyway.) I suspect the Taiwan researchers are correct, and anything with words ties up that part of your brain that could be used processing other information.

The so-called “Mozart effect” also leans in this direction. It was coined in 1995 after scientists at the University of California discovered that students scored higher on spatial IQ tests after listening to ten minutes of a Mozart piano sonata. Apparently, Mozart also has a positive effect on the milk output of dairy cows, premature infant weight gain, plant growth, rats in mazes, and even microbes in sewage treatment plants.

I’m not saying the techs in our lab would work faster or better if Mozart played instead of Toby Keith’s Red Solo Cup fifty times a day. But I might.

NEXT: The Truth About Management

posted by Scott Warner
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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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