Streams

The Science of What Bugs Us

Monday, May 16, 2011

Joe Palca, NPR science correspondent and co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Ustalks about why things are annoying and offers a scientific explanation of what irritates us and gets under our skin. Helping explain this phenomenon is Flora Lichtman, multimedia editor for NPR's Science Friday and co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us

Guests:

Flora Lichtman and Joe Palca

Comments [73]

Johnny Royale from Bayside

She's on the Verizon am radio commercial now post sandy annoying voice close mic talker pronounces "o" like a black or asian with big clicking lips, like the word "skoo" can't quite say school

Jan. 04 2013 03:29 PM
Nancy Meher from Manhattan

On the health care mandate. A friend of mine uses alternative medicine, she sees a Kinesiologist, this type of health care is not covered by any insurance, she pays herself. Why should she have to pay into a system she doesn't use?

Mar. 28 2012 10:46 AM
Nancy Meher from Manhattan

How many students in the past have never paid their loans back?

I had a dentist who told me he never paid his loan back.

Jan. 02 2012 10:20 AM
Nancy Meher from Manhattan

I would say to myself the same thing I said to myself last year

"lose weight and do something to improve my financial situation"

Oct. 17 2011 11:11 AM

Hi, I can't disable cookies on my MAC. I can delete them, but then I can't log on to my back account without speaking to someone at the back to get a new ID. It's a real pain.

Sep. 27 2011 10:57 AM

Right now I'm listening to Brian Lehrer, all the news is so depressing, with no answers as to how to change things. I'm turning off the radio. Maybe Leonard Lopate will be more up beat.

Sep. 23 2011 10:56 AM

Hi, I watch PBS news hour every night. Would you please go back to your old opening pictures. In this new picture you all look like your in a GAP ad. Your all too mature for GAP Clothes.

Sep. 14 2011 10:49 AM
nancy Meher from Manhattan

Song "Sitting on the dock of the bay" oldie forgot artist

Aug. 04 2011 12:07 PM
Nancy Meher from Manhattan

Can we have separate checks please?

May. 25 2011 11:21 AM
Ann

WNYC's robotic underwriting announcer. Beyond annoying. And she's on constantly. Makes me want to hurl the radio against the wall.

May. 18 2011 04:31 PM
Chelsea

Inappropriate dress annoys me! Flip-flops & bare legs in winter, clunky rain boots in the office (bring a change of shoes!) and of course the worst... sneakers and mom jeans at the theater

May. 17 2011 12:01 PM
phil from Los Gatos, CA

Annoying? It is very simple and missed by your guests. There is no more civility, etiquette or humility. The country is about rudeness ... me. It is all about ME. I don't care about any one else.

So the first segment was the funniest segment ever played on Larry David. The rude cell phone caller.

"Don't speak with food in your mouth."

The country is inhabited by rude, selfish, boorish people with no regard or sense of space or privacy.

Remember telephone booths?

Cell phone should be banned in check out lines. Cell phones on airplanes would be pure torture.

May. 17 2011 02:03 AM
Mike from Inwood

Groups of kids who announce "Showtime! Showtime!" on the sbway and expect a space to be cleared for them in a train that's far from empty. They then hop around, barely missing people faces with their shoes. Where are the cops when you need them?

May. 17 2011 01:09 AM

Nasty commenters on the internet (so cowardly), advertisements (both their content and their ubiquity), people who call in to this show and lower the level of discussion by making every issue into a politically partisan one, the canard that those who have been successful in business make better government leaders than so-called "bureaucrats," people who don't say thank you or hold doors for people behind them, loud gum cracking, the proliferation of nail salons.

May. 16 2011 07:45 PM
Hungry Overachiever

I want to apologize to the woman who complained about people eating meals on the subway! For years when I lived in NYC, I went directly from my full-time job to music rehearsal, and the subway was my only chance to have any dinner. If it helps, I was subconscious about it and tried to hide in a corner seat whenever possible. I am guilty of eating really messy meals on occasion too, like drippy falafel sandwiches and even sushi!!! (One can eat only so many tidy empanadas, right?) The shame, the shame.

May. 16 2011 05:30 PM

this guest is annoying

May. 16 2011 03:18 PM
Walker from Jersey City

1- Journalists (even the best ones, Brian) who always referred to George Bush as "the President" and now refer to President Obama as simply "Obama." The difference is because.....?

2- lack of SIDEWALK etiquette and generally understood rules, such as walk on the right, pass on the left (with some exceptions e.g, postal workers, disabled); walk at whatever speed one chooses, but - esp. slow walkers - don't hog the whole width; don't spit. And dog walkers should always keep dogs as close as possible to the curb - whether they have to walk on the left or right, or hold the leash on the left or right - instead of letting them pee on buildings so that residents/customers are subjected to the odor and pedestrians have to step in or over streams. Mayor Bloomberg, please make this your next quality-of-life issue. Mayor Healy, it would be nice if you'd at least put a stop to cars using the sidewalks as private driveways.

3- Agree with the woman who complained on air about ceaseless soundtracks, wherever one goes. Noise pollution in general.

All together now: I simply remember my fa-vo-rite things........

May. 16 2011 01:47 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn NY

Hi, People talking in the Brooklyn public library annoy me. They talk on their cells as if they were in the middle of Times Square.

May. 16 2011 01:21 PM
B. from NYC

Lately I have been 'annoyed' by the apparent fact that what I would have described as the 'rules of the sidewalk' in NYC seem to have been discarded. It seems that there might have been a time when sidewalks were organised rather like roads. People bore to the right. Now I walk along and people plow into me walking against the tide or else wander into my path, talking on the cellphones. Seriously glad I don't drive around these people.

May. 16 2011 01:16 PM
Kathy from Manhattan

@Trooftella: The guy who offered the seat to the white pregnant woman immediately and not me (after staring at my belly, which was in front of his face) was white.

I am not upset that I wasn't offered a seat because I am used to that and don't expect it...but what upset me was that someone decided that I was less deserving of a seat than another pregnant woman. To me, that's hateful, not just rude.

May. 16 2011 12:27 PM
Barbara from Manhattan

The constant BEEPING noise that emanates from everything that moves in the city: the trucks that picks up garbage in the middle of the night; the food delivery trucks that beep as they back into position at 6-7AM and when their elevated flaps go up and down; every bus that opens its doors and runs its hydraulic system.

We used to be able to avoid an opening bus door without being warned. Now everyone within a three block radius has to be warned!

High decibel BEEPING is doing what living down the street from a hospital emergency entrance has not done: I am ready to leave the city!

May. 16 2011 11:59 AM
roseellen from jackson heights,N.Y.

I just don't get why people are irritated by people eating on the subway or any public space.There's something really puritanical about being bothered by seeing people enjoy food.What is the problem?Is it that they dare enjoy themselves while doing everyday things?
I'm irritated by radio shows where people talk too slow or swallow their words or when background noise in radio documentaries are heard.I swear those programs seemed designed to irritate.They're the height of passive agressiveness on the part of such hosts.I betcha one reason Brian Lehrer's show is so popular is because he talks in a fast enough pace and also seems irritated with people who speak too slow.He doesn't come across as pompous or egotistical as these slow talkers do.I get irritated with people in check out counters who wait to take out their wallets to pay for stuff when they've been on line for a while.They inevitably have a look of surprise that the cashier is asking them for the money.Like they just realized it's time to pay when they were watching every ring up of each item the cashier made.

May. 16 2011 11:53 AM
trooftella

Kathy -- was that person Asian also? who is being hateful here...what were you annoyed by and was this an exception?

May. 16 2011 11:37 AM
Ordinarily PC

Subway McF@rts

May. 16 2011 11:33 AM
Amy from Manhattan

So even the title of the book is Annoying?

Another major annoyance for me is Muzak/"lite" music. They take good music & drain all the personality out of it. It's like having to listen to someone drone on & on w/out saying anything!

And dare I say it, WNYC's other science show, "Radiolab." Not the topics--those are actually interesting. It's the overla/ver/erlappi/apping repeti/eti/repe--they say the same thing more than once--tition! And then they *explain* it, even though it's a common word everyone knows. I have actually been driven away by this even when I actively wanted to hear about the topic. Not to mention that if they left all the repetition out, they could probably fit in another segment. And this won an award??

May. 16 2011 11:17 AM
Janine K from UWS

A dearth of "common courtesy" by fellow NY'ers.
For instance:
- blocking other commuters from getting on/off subway or bus, by STOPPING right after you get on ... just because you made it onto the MTA, doesn't mean there's not someone else who also wants to get on, too, right behind you!
- school-age kids who block the doors (by not moving away as new passengers get on/off) should have their discount transit passes REVOKED after 2 infractions. Full-fare-paying commuters should be able to give "citizen citations" (w/copy going to NYC MTA) to document who are the offending students. I hate subsidizing the train/bus fare of inconsiderate students!! These inconsiderate students become inconsiderate adults AND usually they're wearing headphones, so they can't hear you when you ask them nicely to MOVE!
- dropping trash on sidewalk just short of a trash can; leaving your trash(from just-eaten food or just-consumed beverage) &/or already-read newspaper on public transit.
- Spitting (!) or throwing a still-lit cigarette butt on sidewalk/road ... use a tissue (spitting) or put out your cigarette! (People who smoke should be made to re-inhale the smoke the blow out. We'd have more non-smokers!)
- Blocking the flow of traffic of other commuters by stop'g mid-staircase (or mid-thoroughfare) to text or take cell phone call ... rather than standing off to side or not yet going down/up staircase.
- carrying on EXTENDED loud conversations in restaurants & public transit. Everyone has to have a quick chat now & then, but using the "commute time" or "dining time" to have an extended conversation w/someone on the cell phone is VERY RUDE to other people.
- commuters who take 2 or 3 seats (i'm sorry, no guys' balls are THAT big) because they're legs are spread so wide, or (esp. student couples) they're "reclining" on their significant other.
- baby carriages & bikes on subways (more than buses) ... they should be restricted to the end-part of the car that has a little alcove (where the train conductor booth is) ... more often these people BLOCK or semi-block the entrances & clog up the mid-aisle, so no one can pass!

May. 16 2011 11:06 AM

I think we're specifically by things we ourselves were taught/conditioned not to do. We resent people doing things that we've trained ourselves not to do. My own pet peeve are people who block the escalator so you can't pass to the left. I'm sure this is in part because I was rebuked as a child for doing precisely that.

May. 16 2011 11:05 AM
jps from NYC

Ill fitting jeans. Forced to look at boyz nasty underwear or the crack of people rear end IN RESTAURANTS no less! I had to ask the waiter to move us so we didn't have to be exposed to a young woman exposed bottom in an UPSCALE restaurant. I mean I am going there to eat and be with friends.
I later pointed the limits of incivility out to the manager.
What is it about these people. Do they think the rest of us are invisible ? What happened to proper social behavior. I guess that went out with parental responsibility.

May. 16 2011 11:04 AM
Jamison from Fort Green

People that cant share the side walk.

May. 16 2011 11:00 AM
Loverly

When Lopate introduces an author by explaining that he or she has written "...any number of books..." The temperature is ever changing. The number of books one has written is relatively quantifiable!

May. 16 2011 10:59 AM
Kathy from Manhattan

I have a good one from this morning. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and my commute from Ft. Greene into Manhattan is about 30 minutes. I had been on the train for 15 minutes and no one offered me their seat. Fine, people usually don't. That's when another pregnant woman got on and the guy who had been staring at my belly for 15 minutes jumped up to offer the other woman his seat without a single word exchanged. She looked about 4 months pregnant max. The only difference between me and the other woman was that she was white (I'm Asian) and had a smaller belly than me. We even both had the exact same style trench coat on so our silhouettes shown in a comparable manner. I didn't get upset when I thought all pregnant women were equally ignored, but the scenario this morning where I was deemed not deserving of a seat but another pregnant woman was, was upsetting. I was like, wow, people are truly hateful.

May. 16 2011 10:59 AM
April from Jersey City

It so annoys me in the summer when everywhere you go its freezing!!!! to much AC!

May. 16 2011 10:59 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh so glad to hear what bothers that woman. It drives me nuts being behind a woman--not a sexist thing just that they have the handbags mostly, but would apply to man who does same--at a cashier check out. Time to pay: live the pocketbook and unclip, take out the wallet, dig for the bills, open the change section or separate change purse get the exact change, pay the cashier, take the change, put the bills back, close the wallet put it back in the handbag, put it over the arm or shoulder. take the package/bag and leave. I have all my money in one pocket. I take it out hand it to the cashier and it's over.

May. 16 2011 10:59 AM
Peter from NYC

People who don't use their turn signal!!!

May. 16 2011 10:59 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn, NY

What annoys me is when people engage in egregious and dangerous traffic infractions and there is no police officer to stop them.

May. 16 2011 10:59 AM
Alex from Park Slope, Brooklyn

The airport waiting areas with huge TV screens which force you to watch CNN or Fox News that blare at you while you're waiting for your flight. I didn't pay to watch television, I paid to get on an airplane!

May. 16 2011 10:59 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Almost forgot: AWESOME!

May. 16 2011 10:59 AM
Suzanna from Brooklyn

Totally the clipping of nails on the subway station. It drives me crazy. And it annoys me when my mother gets annoyed, but that's another story.

May. 16 2011 10:58 AM
brody from BKLYN

My self and most of my friends all grew up in the city. To us, it has always been common sense or good manners when walking in a group to fall into single file to share the sidewalk when another group is coming in the opposite direction. we really hate to step aside when it is not returned.

May. 16 2011 10:58 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Cars blocking the crosswalk at traffic lights.

May. 16 2011 10:58 AM
Andrea from Rockland County, NY

Donald Trump!!

May. 16 2011 10:57 AM
High Beams

I drive in many towns in the metro area -- why on earth do certain towns seem to be crawling with drivers who drive at night with their high beams on? Don't say because they are old, because it's usually pickup trucks or BMWs...

May. 16 2011 10:57 AM
Kevin

People speaking on the phone or texting while driving. ALWAYS if someone is driving terrible you will notice they are on the phone! The safety issue annoys me.

May. 16 2011 10:57 AM
Kathy from Manhattan

I have a good one from this morning. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and my commute from Ft. Greene into Manhattan is about 30 minutes. I had been on the train for 15 minutes and no one offered me their seat. Fine, people usually don't. That's when another pregnant woman got on and the guy who had been staring at my belly for 15 minutes jumped up to offer the other woman his seat without a single word exchanged. She looked about 4 months pregnant max. The only difference between me and the other woman was that she was white (I'm Asian) and had a smaller belly than me. We even both had the exact same style trench coat on so our silhouettes shown in a comparable manner. I didn't get upset when I thought all pregnant women were equally ignored, but the scenario this morning where I was deemed not deserving of a seat but another pregnant woman was, was upsetting. I was like, wow, people are truly hateful.

May. 16 2011 10:57 AM
Tim from NYC

People reading and typing on their phones and Blackberrys as they walk the streets of NYC. They don't really walk, just shuffle slowly since they are focused on their phones. They slow down the traffic flow and need to get out of the way.

May. 16 2011 10:57 AM
robert from manhattan from manhattan

brian lehrer asking 15, 16, 17 questions in a row.

May. 16 2011 10:57 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Annoyances: (1) People who sit on the aisle seat on the bus, with window seat empty. It's stupid and selfish.

(2) Subway, people who put their packages on the seat next to them while others are standing. Seems agressive and selfish (there's that word again!).

May. 16 2011 10:57 AM
Alex from Park Slope, Brooklyn

People who play their music out loud on the subway, and don't seem to think it's anything out of the ordinary.

May. 16 2011 10:57 AM
darla from tribeca

annoyances - eating meals on the subway - ok a donut - but people bring out their food!! I tought this was illegal.

and people who drive 85 miles an hour in 60 mph zones and then complain about the slow drivers!

May. 16 2011 10:56 AM
Linda from East Village

I was at the IFC Film Center Sat. night, watching Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams (9:35 p.m. show) Seated next to me was a couple who talked non-stop throughout the film. After pleas from others around them, they would temporarily stop, but then they continued. At one point, I tapped the guy on the shoulder and said Please be quiet. To no avail. He just shrugged and gave me an annoyed look. This couple had a look of prominence about them--though I didn't recognize them. But all they were was pompous jerks.

May. 16 2011 10:56 AM
Zahara from Hoboken

Throwing garbage out of a moving car and using profanity in public.

May. 16 2011 10:56 AM
Kathy from Manhattan

I have a good one from this morning. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and my commute from Ft. Greene into Manhattan is about 30 minutes. I had been on the train for 15 minutes and no one offered me their seat. Fine, people usually don't. That's when another pregnant woman got on and the guy who had been staring at my belly for 15 minutes jumped up to offer the other woman his seat without a single word exchanged. She looked about 4 months pregnant max. The only difference between me and the other woman was that she was white (I'm Asian) and had a smaller belly than me. We even both had the exact same style trench coat on so our silhouettes shown in a comparable manner. I didn't get upset when I thought all pregnant women were equally ignored, but the scenario this morning where I was deemed not deserving of a seat but another pregnant woman was, was upsetting. I was like, wow, people are truly hateful.

May. 16 2011 10:56 AM
Richard Storm from Hell's Kitchen

All my chief annoyances reduce to the failure to acknowledge that there are other people in the world affected adversely by one's behavior -- the cell yell, cars turning without signaling, pedestrians walking into me (am I invisible) even though I try to get out of their way, people blocking doors, audience members talking -- that blinkered view that someone is the only and most important human in the universe..

May. 16 2011 10:56 AM
Chris from Manhattan

People who leave their cars idling anywhere, especially on the curb of the sidewalk.

May. 16 2011 10:56 AM
Erika from Brooklyn

How about people who stop half way down the subways stairs so they can finish their cell phone conversation?

May. 16 2011 10:56 AM
Nancy Meher from Manhattan

What annoys me is that every talk show host, every tv show has theme music. I bombarded with bad theme music. How about some silence. And yours is especially annoying Brian.

May. 16 2011 10:56 AM
marc from Brooklyn

How about people who wear flip flops on airplanes? Ugh!

May. 16 2011 10:55 AM
St John Mckay from Bronx

Since I don't drive I don't get road rage but since I am always on the subway I get 'rail rage'. I think the single most annoyance is people taking up more than one seat with bags, etc, when people are standing. Or, even worse, healthy adults sitting when pregnant, parents with little children, elderly, etc are standing

May. 16 2011 10:55 AM
zzzz

Commenters who drone on about the exact same subject every segment.

I think they do it on purpose -- in fact, have you guys done research on "Annoying People?"

May. 16 2011 10:55 AM
Cynthia from Brooklyn

People who push open the emergency exit gate when exiting the subway.
No package, no bike, just wanting to get to wait to go up the stairs faster.

Those emergency exit gate sirens REALLY annoy me.

May. 16 2011 10:55 AM
margot from New Jersey

Whistling, tonal or atonal, in public.

May. 16 2011 10:54 AM
Elizabeth Kellner from Manhattan

I am annoyed by the people in my neighborhood who use the public corner trash cans to dump their household garbage or recycling they don't want to keep for a week.
The cans were not intended for this, they fill up and overflow. My observation is that it's done mostly by young people on their way to work who carry the trash out with them and drop it there instead of using their building cans. I think it's technically lillegal.

May. 16 2011 10:54 AM
Lisa

People who stand side by side on the escalator. I was always taught "walk on the left, stand on the right".

May. 16 2011 10:54 AM
sophia


BACK UP BEEPERS!!!

May. 16 2011 10:54 AM
Ash in Chelsea

Being trapped in a subway car when someone or a group starts to sing or beg and I have no way to escape. I feel helpless and violated. The same thing on a platform or street does not bother me because I can LEAVE.

May. 16 2011 10:54 AM
Greg in Brooklyn

I'm on line in a deli talking to my buddy when the woman in front of us with a phone screwed into her ear turns and says, loudly, "Do you mind, I'm trying to have a conversation here." Capital punishment anyone?

May. 16 2011 10:54 AM
Naomi Alexis from Prospect Heights

I find the transplants who cause a raise in rents, create competition for jobs, clog the streets and subways, gentrify neighborhoods and then go back home to their home states super annoying.

Can you imagine if millions of people dropped into your city and changed the way you live your life fundamentally just to test their mettle?

May. 16 2011 10:54 AM
Jim

Annoyance is an intersection where insensitivity meets intolerance.

May. 16 2011 10:53 AM
Tony from UWS

Pledge drives and the number of them are annoying.

May. 16 2011 10:53 AM
Beulah

loud music in restaurants, especially with percussion, brass, singing. No one can hear or enjoy it, it is merely annoying, even painful noise.

May. 16 2011 10:52 AM
JT from LI

One of the many things that annoys me is people that leave their shopping carts in the parking lot blocking spots. I see this even when there's a place to return the carts just a few yards away.

May. 16 2011 10:52 AM
Connie from nj

Too many things to mention! I am going to design a Page-a day calendar of pet peeves.

May. 16 2011 10:50 AM
Gabrielle from Brooklyn

Did Joe or Flora research which areas in the US are more irritation-inducing than others? I find that I am very cranky walking on the streets of Manhattan and the busier streets of Brooklyn.

My pet peeve are people who walk slowly in a row of two or more.

May. 16 2011 08:39 AM

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