Science Nails Most Irritating Sound: Whining

It's more distracting than a baby crying or even a table saw
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2011 11:22 AM CDT

(Newser) – If the sound of a child whining makes you want to claw out your own eardrums, don’t worry: Science backs you up. A new study shows whining is, in fact, the most annoying sound to adults—even worse than a baby crying, a table saw, and “motherese” baby talk. Participants performed simple subtraction problems while listening to the above sounds, as well as regular speech and silence, and made more mistakes per problem when being subjected to whines. (To make sure it wasn't the content of the whine or baby talk that was distracting, researchers used foreign language speech samples.)

Participants also completed fewer problems when they had to listen to whining, crying, or baby talk than when it was silent, MSNBC reports. “You’re basically doing less work and doing it worse when you’re listening to the whines,” says the study’s co-author. She adds that the ensuing distraction may actually be whining’s evolutionary purpose: As one mother describes it, she immediately gets stressed when she hears the noise. “I just know that my kid is upset so I need to react.” (Read more whining stories.)

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