Finally, empirical evidence has arrived that whining is one of the most annoying noises ever. (As if you needed proof.)
In fact, childish whining is more distracting than the screech of a high-pitched table saw, according to a new study. To test people’s tolerance for various sounds, scientists asked them to do math problems in silence, and then while listening to talking, “motherese” (aka baby talk), whining and machine noise. Just to make sure words weren’t throwing the test-takers off, they recorded the speech in a foreign language.
The results? Whining tripped up subjects with their subtraction more than any other sound. “You’re basically doing less work and doing it worse when you’re listening to the whines,” said study co-author Rosemarie Sokol Chang, a professor of psychology at SUNY New Paltz. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, everybody’s equally distracted.” Surprisingly, the other sounds made no difference to the participants’ mathematical prowess.
(LIST: Top 10 Most Annoying Sounds)
It may be that evolution has honed whining to a perfect pitch in order to attract attention. But researchers say that in the scientific community, it’s been ignored. “Since this is the most overlooked of the three attachment vocalizations, this result shows the need for more research on the structure and effectiveness of whining,” write the researchers in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology.
Research subjects may not leap with joy at the prospect — in this case, perhaps, whining is allowed.