Sound Aggression

For tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys, would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys! And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
–Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

It’s bad enough that the Grinch had to share a valley with religious zealots, but did they have to make so much noise? Could it have been all the noise that caused the Grinch to build up so much aggression towards the Whos? Could the noise have been of such a duration and type that the Grinch’s psychological wellbeing became compromised? Recent research suggests that noise pollution could contribute to displaced aggression.

A pilot study conducted by Angel Dzhambov and Donka Dimitrova from the University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, investigated the effects of noise on displaced aggression (DA) in residents from a neighbourhood in Plovdiv city. According to the authors, DA occurs when an individual is provoked, but is unable to confront the source of provocation and takes out his or her aggression on an innocent party. To determine at what point sound becomes annoying, Dzhambov and Dimitrova looked at past research and discovered that sound annoyance occurs between 57 and 67 dB. Therefore, the authors chose a neighbourhood with continuous noise levels between 60 dB and 80 dB. The research team used the Displaced Aggression Questionnaire (DAQ) to determine their participant’s level of DA, and a series of interview questions to determine noise sensitivity and annoyance.

Dzhambov and Dimitrova collected data from 182 residents with an average age of 37 (45 percent were female). The research team first looked at participant responses to the DAQ alone. The results showed that women, older adults, long-term residents, retirees, the highly educated, and those suffering from poor health had high DA scores. The authors then looked at correlations between answers to their noise interviews and DA scores. They discovered that high DA scores were significantly associated with “noises above the perceived normal threshold, higher noise sensitivity, and continuous noises.” High DA scores were also associated with low frequency and high intensity noises. However, age – specifically older adults – was the only demographic data that positively correlated with noise sensitivity and aggression. Dzhambov and Dimitrova recognized that this correlation is contrary to past research. They attributed this result to limitations in the Bulgarian healthcare system to provide care for the elderly and the increase in poverty in this population over the past decade. “Therefore, social climate might be modifying the way people perceive and react to environmental noise,” concluded the authors. Furthermore, the authors suggested that an interdisciplinary public health approach would be helpful in counteracting the psychological distress and conflict created by noise pollution.

Maybe the reason why the Grinch hated Christmas so much wasn’t because his “head wasn’t screwed on just right” or “his shoes were too tight” or “his heart was two sizes too small.” Maybe it was all the Who noise. But we’ll never know the truth because the Grinch succumbed to Who indoctrination and all is well in the valley of Who.

Rodney Steadman 14 September 2014

Works Cited

Dzhambov A, & Dimitrova D (2014). Neighborhood noise pollution as a determinant of displaced aggression: A pilot study Noise and Health, 16 (69), 95-101 DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.132090

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