Follow-ups (from you)Lots of interesting e-mail from you guys, so let's take a look.
First off, and this is my favorite, Lance Shankles sent in an alternate explanation for my audio "sensitivity":
I would like to offer a slightly different take on this whole thing...
I was recently reading this:
Is your behavior controlled by a parasite?
Here's the article in The Atlantic: How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy.
"Compared with uninfected men, males [humans] who had the [toxo] parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women."
So I would like to submit.. that you in fact heavily infected with parasites. Based on my layman's and conspiratorial opinion most likely a huge number of parasites.
Sure, that's the easy answer.
Dave Yeager sent in some interesting information as well:
Don't know if you've seen this before, but there does appear to be a real physical difference in the way men and women perceive color: Do Women Perceive Color Differently From Men?
Some of the same info in a trendy infographic type of thing: Beyond Pink and Blue: A Look at Gender Colors
I wasn't able to find anything similar when it comes to sound.
Here are some collected observations from you guys, randomly attributed to anonymous:
For what it's worth, I struggle with both, but am more slightly more sensitive to visual sensory overload; I have a really hard time tuning out multiple conversations, but can cope with most other sounds without too much problem most of the time. If, on the other hand, I'm presented with a lot of visual noise that I have to cut through, my head goes completely swimmy. I'm also really sensitive to smell, maybe moreso than the other two.
In response to sound and visuals, my wife and I don't have quite the same thing going. She's had me paint a living room orange, kitchen red, and dining room blue (among other colors for many other rooms). She has, for most of her adult life, needed to have the TV on to go to sleep (though we've lately moved to the occasional session with the iPod and some headband headphones, that are very comfortable, evidently). I, on the hand, need it to be fairly quiet (nothing that I can discern as speech), though I've spent over three years of my life at sea on an aircraft carrier, with all of the attendant noise you might think of (a cacophony of white noise, jets landing on the roof, etc.) with no problem. I went from deep slumber to fully awake once when we lost all power, though. That sudden silence was as jarring as the time my roommate chambered a round as he walked past my room at 3am (another story).
So, we're both visually OK, with different audible oddities.
I generally get mildly irritated by repeated noises. Nothing like you, from the sound of it, but a dog barking for 5 minutes would annoy me, and probably most people. Someone tapping a pencil repeatedly? I'm going to break it for them. My grandmother took the cake when it came to anything repeated - jingle keys or marbles or tap a pencil or anything like that for more than 10 seconds and it was silenced by her :) My wife likes a TV or radio on to make the house feel lived in, and likes to fall asleep with a TV on but I can't stand that, at most a book to relax but that can backfire if I get caught up and read till 2am. She's pretty normal other than that, though.
Visually I'm less aware of what's up. People always complain that I don't wave when driving by (small town living, right?) but I just don't see them. I see vehicle with the potential to kill me, or a pedestrian that I'm a potential threat too, and that's about it; I'm usually churning over a work problem or planning next steps in whatever excursion I'm doing (get bread, etc).
I can block out visual stimuli that is six inches in front of me as if it didn't even exist. The smallest, faintest noise drives me bat-shit crazy to the point I can sympathize with people who completely snap for no apparent reason. (As I type this, I can here someone's cell phone vibrating outside my door and it's putting me on edge.)
In our household the sound and 'clutter' (the appearance of things in disarray) quirks are accounted for by my wife, all on her lonesome. Any repetitive, loud or just at the edge of hearing or 'harsh' sounds will drive her insane. Sometimes she won't even realize what is happening, she will just get on-edge and start snapping at me or the dogs...eventually one of us will figure out what noise has triggered it. She also does not like things out of place, off kilter or just too much stuff visible.
Then we get to me. I love having music on in the background, even if I am doing other things (watching TV, playing games, reading or going to sleep)...my one exception is watching a movie or a good TV show (Justified and Archer are two examples)...in which case I don't even want to hear the dogs breathing :) And I don't even see clutter. I am somewhat organized and a clean peson, but I get distracted or my 'lazy' kicks in and I just put the things I use often in one place. Eventually this will drive my wife to a cleaning frenzy or she will just start organizing things. Many times when I cannot find something I say 'it's been organized somewhere'. If I try very hard I can see the clutter and try fixing it, but my version of that usually doesn't meet the minimum specs.
I think it would be interesting to see if couples were mainly split or similar on these (a couple we know are both in the 'neat and no noise' category... my wife gets along with them swimmingly).
Generally I'm the one who gets bothered by visual things. Messy piles, crooked picture frames, etc. It's especially noticeable when we're playing a game with lots of piles of cards, but I've been known to go so far as making little geometric patterns out of my pieces. My wife couldn't care less if objects are neat or straight, and she tends to select relatively bright stimulating colors when we paint (which don't bother me per se, but I tend to go for subtler colors).
With sound, I tend to be more tolerant, especially about tapping or repetitive sounds. It drives her up the walls when I tap my fingers. Other people's tapping triggers it for her too, so I know it's not just a spouse peeve. Also, she'll get distracted by television noise from the other room. On the other hand she'll leave a TV on in the same room "just to have some noise." I also like having some sort of background noise. I pretty much always have some music running. I confine it to a headset when it makes sense, but if I'm doing housework or sitting down to dinner I'll put it on speakers. Subjectively, it seems that it allows my brain to pay some attention to it without much risk that it'll bubble up to the front of my mind. It means that I can concentrate on my task without getting distracted by tangential thoughts.
I totally understand what you mean about your brain abstracting down what you're seeing. I notice things visually when I'm focusing on them, but if I'm preoccupied or paying attention to something else I'll miss really obvious stuff. For instance, when I'm talking to a coworker I'll notice they got a haircut or new glasses, but I'll completely miss a bright red warning sign on the way to the bathroom.
I have to say that sound interferes with concentration for me. I generally prefer a quiet house. This is one reason I like to stay single, actually. If anyone ever moved in, I'd have to put up w/ the TV or radio being left on as background noise. *shakes head incredulously* It just doesn't make sense to me how that's a good thing.
While driving, if I want to look at the scene of an accident, I've noticed that I'll turn the radio down (or off). I often wondered if there was a direct link to the amount of data that one's brain can process given how much the other senses are in use.