As many people spit out their vampire fangs, scrub off their fake blood, and stagger into work with a happy Halloween hangover, some people have their eyes set on the next holiday already.
As is the case every year, Christmas cheer is inescapable. It’s the beginning of November and shopping centres already have trees up, high streets have lights up, and town squares are preparing for the incoming Christmas markets.
And, for anyone with ears, the incessant repetition of Christmas songs will seep into your lives like a bad smell continuing to linger no matter how many windows you open and how many times you wash your clothes.
However it’s not just the Grinches among us who get fed up of Christmas songs. Researchers have found the constant repetition of these tunes can have a negative impact on your psychological health.
Known as the ‘mere exposure effect’, humans experience a U-shaped relationship between the number of times we hear music we like, and our subsequent reaction to it, according to Victoria Williamson, a researcher on the psychology of music at Goldsmith’s University.
Speaking to NBC, Victoria said after liking a tune at first, we like it more and more until it hits a peak, then our fondness for the music crashes down.
As for Christmas music specifically – which can have such a polarising effect on its listeners – Victoria suggests the music’s effect depends on the person’s own psychological state.
For example, people who are already stressed about the festive season – due to money, travel, shopping, seeing family and everything else which goes along with the Christmas period – may find the music unwelcome as it just reminds them of their stress.
On the other hand, those who find Christmas more relaxing and are more receptive to the season, find happy associations with it. These include childhood memories, family gatherings, or the religious meaning behind the holiday, suggesting they therefore don’t mind the repetitive music as much.
However, shops don’t just play Christmas music because of the time of year, as research has also shown the music puts shoppers in the mood to spend more money.
Eric Spangenberg, dean of the College of Business at Washington State University, said:
We’ve shown that ‘holiday appropriate’ music combined with congruent ‘holiday scents’ can influence shoppers by increasing the amount of time they spend in a store, their intention to revisit it, and intention to purchase.
He added ‘slower tempo music slows down shoppers, and they spend more time and money in a store,’ while faster-paced pieces make people hurry through a shop quicker.
Of course, we must spare a thought for people working in stores over Christmas, who are subjected to the same playlists day in, day out.
Psychologist Linda Blair told Sky News:
People working in the shops at Christmas have to tune out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else.
You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.
It might not be a surprise that listening to the same music over and over can damage a person’s mental health. Varied playlists at reasonable volumes, even if it is Christmas music, can be a step in the right direction, though.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.