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Science Says People Who’re Annoyed By Chewing Sounds Are More Creative

Science Says People Who’re Annoyed By Chewing Sounds Are More Creative

Does the slurping or smacking of people’s lips when they are eating really get to you? Maybe you hate going to the movies because the people crunching popcorn next to you make you want to crawl inside a hole. Or, maybe it’s just the sounds of someone chewing bubble gum noisily that drives you bananas.

If this sounds more like you, relax. You may have heightened sensitivity to certain noises, a diagnosable condition called misophonia. While joining the unlucky 20 percent of people who have misophonia may be unfortunate, it’s not entirely bad. There is some good news associate with this condition.

Scientists from Northwestern University have found that people who are hypersensitive to particular sounds tend to be more creative than those who are not.

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Yep, you read that right. If you get annoyed by chewing sounds, you are probably a genius. The more rage you feel at people’s inability to munch their food quietly, the more of a genius you probably are.

How Misophonia is linked to creativity

In their eye-opening study, the researcher from Northwestern University surveyed 100 participants who were asked to provide as many answers as they could to several unlikely scenarios within a limited amount of time. The researchers monitored how participants reacted to a number of noises, and then asked them to complete a Creative Achievement Questionnaire before drawing their conclusions.

According to the study authors, the participants’ “answers revealed a strong link between those with the most creative answers and achievements and those sensitive to background noise.” The study showed that “higher divergent thinking scores were linked with more selective sensory gating.” In other words, the more the sounds bothered you, the higher you scored on tests that measure creativity.

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Darya Zabelina, lead researcher in the study, explains:

“The propensity to filter out ‘irrelevant’ sensory information… happens early and involuntarily in brain processing and may help people integrate ideas that are outside the focus of attention, leading to creativity in the real world.”

Interestingly, the researchers also looked into the habits of “creative geniuses” like Charles Darwin, Anton Chekhov and novelist Marcel Proust to compare their findings. They found that many of these massively creative people also had a strong aversion to background noises. Proust, they wrote, had such a strong aversion to noises that he covered “his bedroom with cork to block out noise whilst he worked.”

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Darwin, Chekhov and Johan Goethe also strongly lamented the distracting nature of noise. Even Franz Kafka, one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century, reportedly said: “I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ – that wouldn’t be enough – but like a dead man.”

So, the next time you’re getting vexed that someone next to you is loudly slurping on their chicken noodle or munching and crunching on their crisps, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re more creative, and probably also smarter than they are. Otherwise, that person wouldn’t be mindlessly chomping on their food like that.

Coping with noisy eaters

You’d imagine adults would know better than to chew with their mouths open, but it’s obvious not everyone is as well-mannered or considerate as you’d want. That means creative people, those with misophonia don’t have it easy. But, one can persevere through annoying “mouth sounds.”

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If, however, people’s lip smacking bothers you too much, you need to learn how to cope. You can’t make everyone else change the way they eat just because it bothers you so don’t even try to change a chewer.

Pawel Jastreboff, who’s credited with coining the term misophonia, has helped people with misophonia by teaching them to associate positive experiences with annoying mouth sounds, gradually reducing the negative emotions the subjects felt.

Jastreboff’s technique works more than 80% of the time, so maybe you don’t have to plug your ears or walk away from the dinner table halfway through a meal if your spouse or other family member is the chewer, after all.

Featured photo credit: LoloStock via shutterstock.com

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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