If the festive season brings you less in the way of good cheer and more in the way of a near-uncontrollable urge to shove sharpened candy canes under the fingernails of the next person to play “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” rejoice: You’re not alone.
Apparently, there’s a new study about what hearing the same inane jingle on repeat does to your brain. It’s something called the “mere-exposure effect“, which dictates a) that people tend to like things with which they’re familiar, but also b) that you can only hear the same damn song a certain number of times before the urge to kill begins rising in your gorge.
And so, advertisers tend to blast the Christmas music at this time of year as a not-especially-subtle form of psychological grooming, reminding long-suffering consumers that hey, it’s that wonderful time of the year to start shelling out on crap for your family. Get into the Christmas spirit and start consuming!
The tricky part comes as different consumers have different mere-exposure thresholds — in other words, some might start feeling stabby after the third time they hear “Rudolph,” while others will happily hum along for plenty more airing of the same song. The effect also depends on a consumer’s state of mind: “People who are already stressed out about the holidays… may find the musical reminder of the cause of their stress very unwelcome.” Quite.
I’ll stick to playing Tiny Tim’s “Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS” on repeat and hide under the bed for the next month. Bah, humbug.