Effects Of Repetitious Music

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about repetitious music:

I work in a call centre where baroque music is played over and over on our headphones between calls. I’ve found that even after a few days away from work, the music is still playing over and over in my mind. I’ve had only one week’s exposure to this but am concerned about any long-terms effects. (And I like baroque music, but this has become overwhelming!)

Signed, Over and Over

DearĀ Over and Over:

Our site has responded to a few questions pertaining to music within the work environment; however we have not claimed expertise in this field. Our focus has been mostly on whether it distracts from work and/or is liked/disliked. You are fortunate to have music that you like.

Studies of the effects of music are inconclusive: “The “Mozart Effect” is still unproven but, because of continuous experiments and developments, it is believed that complex music can affect the brain’s development and decision making positively.” The studies I’ve seen can’t say whether the classical music will imprint a lasting positive or negative psychological effect on you. I encourage you to pursue this line of investigation, but I doubt that you need to worry about a harmful effect.

Many sources suggest a positive result of music on learning and mood, but they then are challenged by other research. One source suggests that mood is helped by background music: “It’s probably no secret that classical music has a profound effect on our moods. The sounds and rhythms are soothing to most people; in some cases, it happens without their knowledge. In many hospital operating rooms, surgeons play classical music during long surgeries. They find that it helps them to relax and focus on the complicated and important job at hand.”

In London, an experiment was conducted in which, for 6 months, classical music was played on the speakers in the subway. The study found that in some of the more dangerous neighborhoods, robberies decreased 33 percent, assaults decreased 25 percent, and vandalism decreased 37 percent–all believed to be a direct result of the classical music.

A supermarket tried a similar experiment outside the store and found that the music led to less vandalism and fewer youths loitering.” http://www.ehow.com/list_6937322_list-effects-listening-classical-music.html Another reported: “Listening to music affects the activity of neurons in the temporal lobe.

According to Eric H. Chudler, a professor at the University of Washington, patients undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy showed reduced activity in 48 percent of neurons and increased activity in 20 percent of neurons when listening to classical or folk songs during surgeries. Conversely, patients listening to the theme song from “Miami Vice” showed reduced activity in 26 percent of neurons and increased activity in 74 percent of neurons. Also, some of the neurons sent information down axons in time with the rhythm of the music.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/157875-the-effects-of-music-on-the-human-brain/#ixzz1jnoPzBLc

Thank you for prompting me to investigate this phenomena a bit more. The fact that you are conscious of how music at work echoes in you head indicates that you have some control over it. You can voice your opinion about the policy of when and what is played. Even those of us who have ringing in our ears cause by nerve damage can live with it and dampen it by becoming absorbed in reading or listening to something that interests us. I expect that “the music is still playing over and over in my mind” is like that; it is noticed less or not at all when you are busy with an activity you like.

When at work, between calls if you focus on how to improve the calls you and others are making, probably you will be less aware of the background music. So enjoy it. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Make that the goal of your work and continue to be happy with the music you hear.

Additional response by Tina Rowe: Hello! I wanted to add a bit to Dr. Gorden’s answer, although it was certainly well researched. I dislike phone and background music very much because it’s nearly always either bad sounding to me or it jumps or has static or something else. If I had to have music playing in my ear while I’m working it would be a distraction. I particularly do not like Baroque music, probably from years of playing Bach on the piano and organ! HOWEVER, http://brainbasedbiz.blogspot.com/2007/04/baroque-music-helps-you-focus.html

Apparently there is some scientific (supposedly) evidence that the structure of Baroque music helps people stay focused and energized. So, that is probably why it, rather than something else, is used. Given that semi-fact, your employers probably wouldn’t stop using it. Consider this approach: Using a tone that is inquisitive rather than complaining, ask a coworker if he or she has ever been able to adapt or adjust to the music to the point that it’s not noticed anymore. If he or she says yes, you’ll have some hope that your brain will tune it out after awhile. If he or she says no, you can ask if it’s been bothersome away from work.

Use that conversation to consider if there is any point in asking your supervisor for options. For example, could there simply be a soft “white noise” between calls? Or, can you turn down the volume of your headset between calls if you still can hear the incoming call? In most call centers there is not much down-time, so at least the music isn’t playing incessantly. But, I can imagine it could be frustrating to have it echoing when you’re off-duty. Usually though, when I mention the noise or unpleasant sound to someone who is employed in a place that has a lot of background music, almost always the employee will say they don’t even notice it. I’m hoping that will be the situation for you. Best wishes to you! Tina Rowe & William Gorden