An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via the BBC: According to a 2015 survey of the most annoying office noises by Avanta Serviced Office Group, conversations were rated the most vexing, closely followed by coughing, sneezing and sniffing, loud phone voices, ringing phones and whistling. Why do we find it so hard to be around these everyday noises? What is it about them that allows them to lodge in our brains and make it impossible to think? […] Back in 2011, researchers from University College London and the University of London decided to find out. First of all, the researchers asked 118 female secondary school students to complete a questionnaire, which revealed how extroverted or introverted each was — essentially, whether they thrive on socializing and being immersed in the outside world or if they find these experiences exhausting. Next the students were subjected to a battery of cognitive challenges — and to add extra difficulty, they were asked to complete them while listening to British garage music, or the clamor of a classroom. A control group completed them in silence. As the researchers suspected, all the students performed better in silence. But they also found that, in general — with the exception of one test — the more extroverted they were, the less they were affected by noise. A person’s level of extroversion is thought to be a key aspect of their personality — one of the so-called ‘Big Five’ factors that determines who we are, along with things like how open we are to new experiences. According to one prominent theory, extroverts are inherently “understimulated,” so they tend to seek out situations which increase their level of arousal — like noisy environments. Meanwhile, introverts have the opposite problem; as the famous poet, novelist and introvert Charles Bukowski put it: “People empty me. I have to get away to refill.” With this in mind, it makes sense that more introverted workers would be more affected by the background noise, since anything that increases their level of arousal, like music or the chatter of colleagues, could be overwhelming.

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