Scientists having figured out — scientifically! — the most annoying and distracting noise in the world. But you, Mom and Dad, have know the soul-crushing power of this sound since about the time the kid turned, ohh, about 2.
Whining. Kid whining! Awful, awful, awful. And distracting! No wonder calling someone a whiner isn’t meant as a compliment, you whiny little so-and-so. But, from the whiner’s standpoint, whining is pretty productive.
Because whining is meant to be distracting. It’s meant to get your attention. “Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaase,” whining says. “I caaaaaaaaaaaan’t go on another minute without you,” whining wants you to know. “It hurrrrrrrrrrts,” when the focus of the whining isn’t on the whiner itself.
There are other ways to get someone’s attention, we all know that. But whining? A recent study has shown that it’s the most efficient way of doing it. Damn you again, Mother Nature!
Researchers at SUNY New Paltz asked participants to do subtraction problems, while other noises played in the background: whining, infant crying, regular speech, silence (ahhhhh, silence!), a high-pitched table saw and motherese (essentially, baby talk). Not only did it take longer to work the subtraction problems under the whining conditions, but their were also more errors.
Participants included parents and non-parents.
“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.”
Crying and baby talk also slowed down performance. But no other sound quite compared to the power of the whine.
How do you handle whiny kids? By whining about them to your friends?
Photo: Ben Husman via flickr