Whining May Be World’s Most Annoying Sound | Wired Science | Wired.com
The high-pitched, cat-like sounds that infants begin to make between two-and-a-half and four years of age, otherwise known as whining, were shown to be the most distracting sounds by the study, at least in comparison to other infant cries and “motherese” — the exaggerated baby speak adopted by adults.
Psychologists from SUNY and Clark University put participants through the daft trial of trying to do maths problems while listening to a range of six sounds, including a screeching saw on wood, machine noise, a baby crying, motherese and whining, for a whole minute each. Weirdly, the whining sample actually came from an adult, as child actors could not “act out a sustained whining bout”. Previous research has shown adult and child whining to be similar enough to enable this substitution.
The study subjected both men and women, parents and non-parents, to the tests, who were rewarded for their troubles with either M&Ms or toy shop vouchers, depending on their childrearing experience.
After having looked at the maths results, the psychologists found that while all “attachment vocalisations” — meaning motherese, crying or whining — caused greater distraction than silence to the participants, a minute of whining resulted in a greater number of mistakes than machine noise or motherese. Furthermore, both parents and non-parents were affected similarly by whining.