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What's the Most Annoying Sound? New Study Says Whining Outranks Other Auditory Annoyances

By , black-rose-bielefeld.de GuideJune 29, 2011

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If you're a parent (or even someone who spends a lot of time around kids), then you know just how annoying whining can be. A new study published in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology found that whining outranked other sounds as the most distracting.


In the study, subjects were asked to complete subtraction problems while listening to different sounds which included whining, an infant crying, a high pitched table saw and motherese (aka "baby talk"). Researchers discovered that participants made more errors on the subtraction problems while they were listening to whining. The second and third most distracting sounds were infant cries and baby talk.

According to one of the studies co-authors, Rosemarie Sokol Chang, whining may actually serve an evolutionary purpose. Because it is so difficult to ignore, it is more likely to produce a response in order to eliminate or minimize it. "It's telling you to tune in," Chang explained to MSNBC.com. "Nobody wants to sit around and listen to a fire engine siren either, but if you hear the siren go off, it gets your attention. It has to be annoying like that, and it's the same with the whine."

Learn more about this study:

  • Chang, R. S., & Thompson, N. S. (2011). Whines, cries, and motherese: Their relative power to distract. Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology, 5(2), 131-141. (Available here in PDF format)

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