By Tom Spears
OTTAWA – Men in bars drink more and drink faster when loud music is playing, a French scientist says. And Nicolas Gueguen wants bar owners to turn down the volume in order to slow down the drinking. That may stand as much chance as asking bar owners to order Mennonite outfits for the waitresses, but the study is running all the same in a medical journal.
Alcohol kills approximately 70,000 people every year in France. The Psychologist sat in a bar and watched a total of 40 men over the study period, remaining nonchalant to avoid detection, and counting those cute little French 250-millilitre glasses of biere en fut. With music at 72 decibels, the clientele drank moderately. With music up to 88 dB (below the level of a rock concert, but pretty loud), the men appeared more energised, and so did their drinking: an average of 3.4 glasses per customer with loud music, versus 2.6 glasses with ordinary music. And they drank a glass 3 minutes faster, on average, when the music was loud.
Loud music deters conversation
There may be a second reason, besides excitement, the French team says. In science-speak: “Loud music may have had a negative effect on social interaction in the bar.”
Translation from J.P. MacDonald, a veteran Ottawa club DJ: if you can’t hear the person beside you, you stop talking and drink instead. “As a broad generalisation, I think if you increase the volume of music or just the whole feel of a room, yeah, I think people would probably tend to drink a little more,” says MacDonald. But he says there’s more to the equation than loudness.
Violent or mellow
“I play it from a whole psychological point of view. I can tell when people are happy or sad or whatever,” and he chooses music to fit the mood—or change it. There was a time he played Eye of the Tiger, the theme song to the original Rocky. Three fights broke out, and the doorman asked him to change the music right away. "You change the song and put on Red, Red Wine, and the crowd mellows out."
The French research is published in a journal called Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Gueguen teaches at Southern Brittany University. And he adds some foot-notes on drinking, from older research: Fast music makes men drink faster, too. And German music in stores makes customers buy German wines.
—Canwest News Service