Why am I so ANNOYED all the time?
Claire Benoist for Reader's Digest
There are three “u”s that make something annoying, says NPR science correspondent Joe Palca: For something to be categorically annoying, it must be unpleasant, unpredictable, and of uncertain duration. Think: A mosquito buzzing in your ear. A traffic jam with no explicable cause. A stranger entertaining the whole Starbucks line with his loud cell phone soliloquy. The optimists among us might write these off as simple “pet peeves,” unworthy of our emotional energy. But recent research into the science of annoyance argues otherwise: The things that annoy us could actually kill us, and getting peeved is a natural expression of survival. Here are five times when “pet peeves” are absolutely worth getting upset about, according to science.
Pet peeve: “I HATE the screech of nails on a chalkboard!”
The rapid, grating change in volume that accompanies chair-on-floor or nail-on-chalkboard friction is unpleasant, unpredictable, and uncertain—but there’s an even spookier reason why screeches get under our skin. “It turns out that fingernails on a blackboard have a similar acoustic signature [to human screams],” Palca tells the American Psychological Association. Our prickling reaction to this screechy, screamy frequency may well be part of a deeply-planted survival instinct: Screams = Danger. So, does that make annoyance a biological tool in our arsenal of survival instincts? Researchers have some bold thoughts on that…