That guy crunching chips may be torpedoing your test scores

Photo: Anna Rostova/Getty Images
Photo: Anna Rostova/Getty Images

If you are one of those people who can not abide crunchy, noisy eaters, just a quick question: How were your grades in school? Time reports today that the condition known as “misophonia—extreme sensitivity to the sound of people chewing, coughing or eating—affects learning.” A study in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that “people who said they were sensitive to these sounds had a harder time mastering and retaining information when they could hear a person chewing gum, suggesting that misophonia has an impact on academic performance.”


The study had 72 students take a short quiz, alongside some cretin-type person loudly chewing gum. The misophonic people did worse on the test, suggesting that they were more affected by the noise distraction: “Sound-sensitive students who were in the gum-chewing group did slightly worse on the quiz than those who weren’t affected by misophonia.”

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which loudly smacking gum or noisily crunching chips wouldn’t be annoying and distracting, but some people are more sensory sensitive than other people. Fortunately, the researchers suggest a quick solution for misophonic test-takers: ear plugs.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

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Luckily, came into college knowing that I had misophonia (for those that don’t believe it’s a thing, or think it’s some super-specific newagey way of complaining, I, normally one of the most placid people on the planet, will fly into a borderline uncontrollable murderous rage after hearing certain repeated sounds. It ain’t a conditioned thing - this is just some fucked up wiring somewhere in my dome at fault. Usually have to just remove myself from the situation or sit on my hands to keep from trying to rip my hair out), and had the good sense to ask all my profs if I could wear headphones and listen to music while taking tests, precisely for this reason.

The one time I forgot to ask, my sweet old German CS prof handed out lollipops mid-test to cheer us up, and I ended up having to basically sprint to the bathroom for a bit to keep myself from strangling my friends. Hope someone figures out some way to nix this dumb thing soon, it’s really goddamn infuriating.