24 June 2011
Posted in Science Park
Humans hear millions of sounds everyday. For many people, an alarm clock begins the morning. A trickling coffee pot may filter a hot cup of Joe. And as you start your car, the engine roars as you drive to work or school. Some sounds are pleasant, like birds singing in the trees. But there are plenty of other sounds that drive people crazy. What sound makes people cringe the most? According to an article in Time Magazine this week, whining is one of the most bothering sounds ever.
Researchers for the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology had participants do math problems as various sounds were played in the background. Levels of concentration varied as they heard silence, talking, “motherese” (aka baby talk), whining and a high-pitched table saw. To make sure participants weren’t distracted by the words themselves, the researchers played foreign language recordings. In the end, whining affected participant’s productivity on their subtraction equations more than the other sounds. According to the study’s co-author and professor of psychology at SUNY New Paltz, Rosemarie Sokol Chang, people of both sexes did fewer problems and did those worse when they heard the whines. Scientists tend to pay more attention to the effect of the other three sounds on humans, so Chang hopes this study will result in further research on whining.