Natural Element: After the Noise
How your personality affects the way you respond to unwanted sound.
By November 1, 2009 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016published
Bring in 'da Noise
Extroverted people perform well in the presence of some background noise, and have no problem learning prose passages or solving arithmetic problems with a TV on, studies show. Since extroverts operate in a state of constant underarousal, they require more stimulation and are better equipped to tolerate noise-induced stress. Not only do they have no trouble getting work done in a loud office, but the noise actually helps relieve their boredom.
Extroverts may be drawn to a loud bar, but they're in trouble if it's dimly lit. They're most irritated by noise when lighting is low, according to one study. As illumination levels increase, noise annoyance decreases. Higher intelligence correlates with greater noise annoyance at all levels of brightness.
The Last Straw
Noise increases violence in angry people. In a study, subjects viewing a violent film behaved aggressively if there was also noise present. And angry people give more severe shocks to fellow subjects when exposed to uncontrollable noise.
Introverts require plenty of personal space, but when noise levels go up, people get closer, making introverts even more uneasy. They're better off scheduling dates and meetings somewhere quiet and private.
The Flipping Point
Introverted people with neurotic tendencies suffer when forced to work in noisy environments. Given their high baseline arousal, low awareness of what's going on around them, and low tolerance for external stimulation, they don't cope well with noise stressors. For them, quiet places like libraries are most conducive to peak work performance.
Noise arouses fear and uncertainty, and empathetic people—acutely aware of others and thus better at reading social cues—deal with it by reducing interpersonal distance to comfort themselves and assess proper social responses. In high-traffic public spaces, being less empathetic is a plus because you won't crowd others.
Volume Of Life
Hearing loss begins at 85 decibels.
Home: 40 dB
Office: 65 dB
Restaurant: 75 dB
Television: 80 dB
Alarm Clock: 80 dB
Road Traffic: 85 dB
Subway: 100 dB
Construction: 110 dB
Nightclub: 120 dB
Jet Takeoff: 140 dB