Man, it’s hot today!

“It wouldn’t be so bit if it were a dry heat. It’s the humidity that does it.”

The only thing more annoying than a rhetorical complaint is an unwarranted response according to Social Ventures researcher, Jackie Marzden. While designing a new ‘annoy-o-meter’ for their social science research, they developed a system to test it, and came up with various scenarios that people find annoying.

“It’s very difficult to quantify how annoying someone or something is. Quite often the results are skewed depending on the environment, context, people and situations. For example, someone clicking their nails abstractedly might not bother someone on any other day but, given that they recently gave up smoking, their response can be overwhelming,” she says, “The scale is logarithmic in nature, which comes as no surprise. The real challenge lies in getting test subjects to feel annoyance.”

Jackie says that social niceties and politeness masks the true level of irritation a person feels. To mitigate these factors, her team lets the participants score their annoyance anonymously. The early results are interesting.

“The overall level of irritation is like a leaky bucket. The more refreshed, relaxed and comfortable a person is, the holes are in the bucket to allow irritation to dissapate. If someone is sleep deprived, undergoing major stresses or in an unfamiliar environment, their irritability increases exponentially, despite what their outward disposition is like.”

More than this, her team showed that annoying factors have a compounding effect and that ‘irritant-combos’ are exponentially more effective at annoying a subject than any single source of irritation.

Jackie explains, “We found that even the most severe irritants, such as being sneezed upon, scored a less than a combination of lesser irritants. For example and unhelpful complaint, such as those about the weather, scored about a 1 on our ire-scale, while an unhelpful response to that complaint drew an ire of 3, which is 100 times more annoying than the original irritation.”ChesterLogoSmall

Smells like Family Bonding

In what may come as bad news for obsessive cleaners, researchers in Portsmouth have demonstrated that families whose members wash infrequently are more closely bonded and less troubled than families who wash daily.

“We’ve ruled out a pheromone cause. It seems more to be the case that members identify with the signature of the family, the overall smell caused by each member,” says Associate Professor Ruben Trunnel, “The more one washes, the less a defining signature can be established. This leads to discomfort, distrust and dysfunction.”

While stinky families are not guaranteed to be cohesive, the smell factor does play an important part, says Professor Trunnel. He goes on to state that while many studies focus on smell and pheromones in terms of sexual relations, odour is more prominent and powerful in other social factors like identity, trust and acceptance.

“We can see, for example, when a child comes along, there is a level of adjustment as that child’s odour profile is added to the overall signature but, once it is accepted, removal of the scent is detrimental. Likewise, when a family member leaves or dies, it takes longer for families to grieve as the scent lingers in clothing and walls, ” he says, “We are looking now to see if there is any influence of smell in the workforce, such as your ability to get hired or get a raise, or how accepted you are in a team.”

The results highlight a need for families and societies in general to get back to their primitive roots, he goes on to say, to rediscover what it is to be a sociable human.

“I’m not advocating a lack of hygiene. Technology is having too much of an impact on our lives, and not always for the better. Returning to family values is being hindered by too many creature comforts.”ChesterLogoSmall