Good news: Science has reaffirmed that you're not a sociopath in December, just a sentient human being with the power of hearing. Psychologists have found that holiday music can negatively impact your mental health.
It has to do with the "mere exposure effect," which is a term for the U-shaped relationship between how much we hear music and how much we like it. And because holiday music streams within nearly every public space this time of year, not-liking reaches epidemic proportions: Even if you love Christmas tunes, your pleasurable feelings upon hearing it peak at a certain point, after which you crash, and feelings like boredom and annoyance take over.
What's more, holiday music tends to exacerbate our current emotional state, whatever that may be. If you have warm memories of the holidays, seasonal music is likely to boost your emotional state, while if December's festivities cause you stress — because of family issues, finances or the horrors of plane travel — Christmas tunes can be triggering, says Victoria Williamson, Ph.D, who researches the psychology of music.
It can also be negatively distracting, decreasing employee productivity and increasing irritation among consumers. A Consumer Reports survey found that 23 percent of Americans dread holiday music. "People working in the shops [have to tune out] Christmas music, because if they don't, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else," says clinical psychologist Linda Blair. "You're simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you're hearing."
Also know that the speed of holiday music you hear can affect your buying habits. Slow tempos slow shoppers down, while faster music can hustle shoppers out of a store, says marketing professor Eric Spangenberg, who has studied the effect of holiday music in retail stores.
So dust off a vintage drum-and-bass playlist on Spotify, keep it in your ears while you're holiday shopping, and you may head into 2018 with more money to pay off that plane ticket home that you dreaded buying all year.