I Hate the Sound of Chewing. Am I a Creative Genius?

Ever since I can remember, I have absolutely hated the sound of chewing. Even as a child, I would throw temper tantrums if I heard my parents chewing. Most of the fights in my household sparked around dinner time when I was forced to sit near the sound. In addition to chewing, I also cannot focus during class if I hear coughing. I can’t even focus if I hear nose-blowing. When I take tests in lecture halls, I wear earplugs.

Am I an oversensitive brat? Maybe. Am I a creative genius? Also, maybe.

I was absolutely shocked when I saw an article claiming that having Misophonia, the hatred of sound, could mean you are also some kind of inventive prodigy. Before I looked through the article, I tried to think of how this could possibly make any sense. How could hating the sound of chewing imply that I am creative?

What could this mean? Hatred of chewing causes heightened creativity? Hatred of chewing is positively correlated with creativity?

I could think of absolutely no mechanisms, no third variables, and simply no direct explanations for why my hatred of subtle sounds is in any way connected to creativity.

After researching, I have a clearer understanding of how this could be possible.

While it may not be my actual hatred for chewing that connects to creativity, it is the fact that I even notice the sound in the first place that indicates a difference in my brain. The heightened sensitivity may indicate that I am physically unable to block out extra sounds, indicating something about my brain’s filter of information.

All of this connects to an in-depth study called Neuropsychologia conducted by Northwestern University. The study focuses on sensory gating, a process in our brain that blocks out unnecessary stimuli from the environment. The study encompasses 97 participants between the ages of 18 and 30. Participants were tested to check for any brain issues, injuries, smoking, or drinking history.

The study even went as far as to clarify that all participants were right-handed Caucasians. I don’t really know why. I just find it was interesting that they shared this with the public when most studies wouldn’t care to mention subtle things that are most likely unrelated to the situation at hand. While this may be seen as a bad selection of participants considering it is not completely random, the study does not have to do with race or dominant hands. Although, one could argue that different races or lefties are more creative than the test group through studies. However, in this case, doesn’t that help the study’s control? This could be one possible flaw in the study, but I don’t see anything detrimentally wrong with it.

Participants were given a three-part divergent thinking test and a Creative Achievement Questionnaire. The tests together show results of both laboratory divergent thinking, and real world creativity.

After these assessments, participants were tested on their sensory gating. They were placed in a soundproof chamber while wearing a headset (in fancy words, an EEG cap). They then were played a series of clicking sounds. The clicks were often played in pairs, one right after the other. This is because the average person’s neural response to the second click is expected to be less psychologically stimulating due to the fact that it sounds the exact same as the first click.

The results:

The study found that people with higher real world creativity were not able to gate, or block out, as many sounds as the average person who is less creative. On the other hand, the divergent thinking test showed otherwise—people who had higher scores on the divergent thinking test typically had higher sensory gating than others. The study was trying to prove the opposite of this. The leaders note that this could be due to the untitledinstructions for the divergent thinking test, in which participants had a limited amount of time to come up with their answers. People who are quick to answer questions could be those with high sensory gating, and therefore not necessarily the creative geniuses that the test was designed to discover.


My final thoughts:

I believe that there is some sort of correlation between creative thinking and the inability to reduce intake of sensory information from the environment. They stated that this concept may be the mechanism for why the participants with a wider focus on a wide range of stimuli are able to connect distantly related ideas. I also think this study does a very good job at avoiding the Texas sharpshooter problem and the file drawer problem by releasing the results to both creativity tests and hypothesizing why the results may have been different. Their inclusion of all results helps boost credibility and show that the study was professionally conducted without bias. Although this is only one study with 97 people, I think they proved as far as they could by themselves that there is a correlation. Yes, their study group could have been larger and more randomized. But, other than that, their procedures were very precisely measured from beginning to end, as you can see here. Now it is up to other scientists to keep testing this hypothesis to rule out false positives and reduce the possibility that these results could be due to chance.

As for me, I will try to be less frustrated with my sensitivity to chewing. Maybe it’s not a bad thing after all!


IFL Science

Psychology Today

Science Direct (Primary Source)

Both Graphs Found Here

7 thoughts on “I Hate the Sound of Chewing. Am I a Creative Genius?

  1. Michael A Lupo

    One of my biggest pet peeves is also people who chew loudly. It makes me a little nauseous when I hear or see someone chewing with their mouths wide open. I was always taught that you shouldn’t talk with food in your mouth and to chew with your mouth closed. I’m confused as to how this correlates with being a creative genius, however. I’m interested that the data from the study shows that people who were more “creative” were not able to block out the sounds being played around them. I’m curious to know more about the trial, though. I feel that 97 people are a relatively small control group which leaves open the possibility of chance or a confounding variable being the cause of this. I would redesign this study and completely randomize it the participants. I have always found it hard to concentrate when there is excess noise going on around me, so naturally, the library is the place that I am most productive. Here is an article which details the ways background noise affects our concentration. If your study is true, and people who can’t block out outside noise are in fact more creative than others, I would rather be able to block out the noise so I can be more productive and deal with being less creative.

  2. Sarah Elizabeth Read

    I was absolutely intrigued by your post. This is a topic that I have never thought too hard about but it’s something I definitely deal with on a daily basis. I’ve tuned into it especially since I’ve been in college, when I’m trying to study or take a test and there are certain noises around me. I had no idea that being triggered by certain noises could mean something more than me being an irritable person. I’d be curious to see this study happen again on a larger sample size. I think including a more diverse group of individuals would definitely enhance the results of the study. I would also be curious to know how “creativity” was measured in this study or how it is measured in general. It never occurred to me something as simple as being annoyed by certain fears could be an actual diagnosis, but I’ve attached a link that includes a quiz to determine where you fall on the misophonia scale.

  3. Olivia Anne Browne

    Such a great post. Very much so relatable. Loud eaters are the worst in my opinion. My parents seem to think its hysterical when I get pissed due to the fact that I can hear them eating. I absolutely hate this. Hands down my biggest pet peeve. The only thing I would change about your post would be more information regarding your studies. I cannot wait to show my mom this post.
    Check out this article on people with a legitimate fear of the sound other people make when they are eating.

  4. Anna Josephine Wisniewski

    I could not be more happy with the fact that you wrote about this. I want to forward it to my mom just to prove a point! I have ALWAYS been bothered by the sound of other people chewing. It grosses me out to no end. Your blog post content was really good as well! Maybe before the deadline, since you only had one study in there, you could make up a potential experiment and how to conduct it? I think that would immensely help enhance the post. Also, toss in another picture, maybe something eye catching! Just some suggestions, but overall nice work and very interesting topic! Keep it up.

  5. Danielle Megan Sobel

    Hey! I have this issue too. My family for sure thinks that I’m being petty when I would ask them to chew less loud and with less force. However, I really can’t help the cringing feeling I get when I see my younger brother chomp with his mouth open. I learned about Misaphonia: http://mentalfloss.com/article/67614/hate-sound-people-chewing-you-might-have-misophonia a few years ago and even after showing my mom about it I have a hard time finding her to buy into it

  6. Molly Mccarthy Tompson

    I can’t believe you wrote an article about this because I can relate to it so much. Sometimes if I hear too many different sounds at once, I start to actually PHYSICALLY react. I remember one time I was trying to do my homework in one room, while my brother was playing XBOX in another, my father was watching TV and my mother was on the phone. I began to sweat, and there have actually been times where I cried because I was so frustrated by sounds. I am extremely sensitive to and observant toward different noises. I notice slight differences in the ways people talk and I am really good at impressions and imitations. When people cough in lecture halls, it is the only thing I notice. I stop focusing on the professor and concentrate on all of the different coughs I hear. I never knew that it might actually be a condition or even could relate to creativity! I am glad to know that I am not alone in finding noises so frustrating.

  7. Abigail Roe

    The title of your blog intrigued me. I can’t stand the sound of someone chewing either. I never knew why I was like this, so reading your blog gave me some insight. Your blog was well written, but there are some things you could do to improve. You said you researched through multiple studies, however you only mention one in your blog post. It would bring more credibility to your blog if you included more studies. This study also has a small population it is testing on. 97 participants is a relatively low populated experimental group. Also it said that the group was all right handed Caucasians. This narrows the scope of the study as well. Although, I do like how you included the pictures of the graphs and how the scatter plots correlated. As I was reading, your topic struck a cord in my brain. I began to think of kids with autism and how they are sensitive to noise. Kids with autism are very smart and creative as well. I looked up why they are sensitive to noise and found some more information on the correlation between autism and noise sensitivity.

Leave a Reply