2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
People who dislike the sounds of eating food find them less unpleasant if they think they are made by animals. This was found by American scientists who conducted an experiment with the participation of 20 people with misophonia - a dislike for certain sounds: the sounds of human champing caused them the greatest dislike, but seemed less repulsive if accompanied by a video with a chewing animal or a text describing it. A preprint of the article is published on bioRxiv.org.
In a person with misophonia, the appearance of a trigger sound can cause both an acute psychological reaction and nausea, dizziness and heart palpitations. This condition, however, is poorly understood: misophonia was first described only in 2001, and since then only a dozen related articles (including neuroimaging studies) have been published.
That is why misophonia is still not considered an independent disorder (it is not recognized by either the ICD or the DSM) or even a symptom of a particular disease, and psychiatrists often cannot prescribe appropriate treatment (for example, psychotherapy). At the same time, psychologists continue to study misophonia: for example, it is already known that the most frequent trigger sounds are associated with chewing food or drinking, and in people with this condition, abnormal activity of the auditory cortex is observed.
Miren Edelstein of the University of California, San Diego and her colleagues suggested that not only the sound itself, but also the context in which they hear the sound, can affect the reaction of people with misophonia. To do this, they conducted an experiment in which 20 people with misophonia (self-diagnosed) and 20 people in the control group, who had no obvious dislike of any sounds, took part. The presence of misophonia was checked using a standardized questionnaire.
Scientists focused on people's reactions to the sounds of eating food by recording how people eat salad or sushi and chewing gum, and also used similar sounds made by animals (for example, how a bat eats grapes). For a control condition, the scientists used mud squelching, pebble rustling, and snow rustling.
The experiment itself was divided into three parts. In the first part, the participants listened to each sound and rated on a scale from 0 to 10 how unpleasant they thought the sound was, and also tried to guess what exactly was making the sound. In the second part, the experiment was repeated - but this time, along with the audio on the computer screen, the participants were shown a textual description of the sound. The description could be either correct or not (for example, at the sound of a human champing, it could be written that either a person or a rabbit was chewing an apple), and the participants had to guess whether the sound corresponded to the description. Finally, in the third part, the sound was accompanied by a video sequence: again, they could either match each other or not. At the end of each sound in the second and third experiments, the participants also had to rate how unpleasant the sound was to them.
As expected, the subjects with misophonia found the sounds used in the experiment more unpleasant (p <0.01) than the participants in the control group. This also applied to sounds that were not related to eating food, while the misophones still found them less unpleasant (p <0.01). At the same time, those sounds that, according to the misophones, were not made by absorbing people, seemed to them less unpleasant (p <0.01) - even if in fact they were the sounds of human champing.
Scientists obtained the same results in the second and third experiments: the sounds of a person chewing food seemed less unpleasant to the misophones (p <0.01) if they believed that animals were making them, or if they saw that an animal was chewing (even if it chewed to the sound of human eating).
The authors concluded that context in misophonia actually plays a large role. On the one hand, he can explain its appearance: loud sounds of chewing food are condemned by the norms of behavior accepted in society, therefore it is easier to explain dislike in front of them than aversion to the sounds emitted by animals. On the other hand, the researchers noted, the context can be used in behavioral therapy of misophonia: for example, include the sounds of a person's champing along with a video of an animal eating fruit, build new connections and, as a result, rid a person of misophonia.
Three years ago, scientists investigated the dislike caused by the grinding of nails on glass: then this feeling was isolated as a separate emotion and it was concluded that it can be controlled.