OVER many years of Christmases, I have been concerned for the sanity of those who work in retail.

I have particularly worried that the endless jingles of Jingle Bells and jolly biplane heroics of Snoopys Christmas would drive them to abandon their posts behind the counter and run screaming into the street with their hands over their ears.

There has always been no doubt in my mind about the impact that all the usual suspects and offenders in the line-up of festive songs can have on the innocent.

And now we know. Research done by a psychologist has provided evidence that all that yuletide muzak can indeed turn your brain to mush.

Advertisement

Apparently, it makes us feel trapped in the whirling vortex of buying presents, organising celebrations and generally being jolly ... and we become grumpy.

The authors of the study says that, for those working in shops, the endless carols revolving on replay can be mentally draining.

I can believe that as I find it profoundly mind-numbing after only a few minutes of exposure to Christmas music in a shop or echoing round a mall.

So why do businesses do it?

The simple answer is that other studies have found it stimulates the holiday mood in customers and they buy and spend more.

However, it can be a turn-off if it is played too loudly or too early in the season, causing both customers and staff to get worn down, wasting energy on trying to diminish the distraction.

According to the American Psychiatric Society, for 61 per cent of people, Christmas is more stressed than fest and Christmas tunes add another dimension.

An expert in the psychology of music - Victoria Williamson Ph.D - says this relates to what is called the mere exposure effect.

This means that people get to like things such as songs because they have become familiar. Continuous repeats dilute the appeal until they lose their flavour and become tasteless.

If this sounds familiar, you will have recognised the feeling we get when, after hearing a favourite song on the radio that goes on high rotate and frequent repeats, it loses some of its initial magic and eventually we come to loathe what we once loved.

It may be that we will soon start to feel the same about the recurring dissonant clanging noises coming out of Parliament as the governing party and Opposition get down to the business of politics.

There should be some other name for this parliamentary division.

The Opposition usually lives up to its name by opposing anything and everything the governing parties propose as a matter of principle - even if it might be a sound policy, the Opposition vehemently oppose it because thats what the word means.

It is often reframed as holding the Government to account but this is just ghosting.

The actual task is to oppose and criticise everything and ignore any possible opportunity to work together on matters of national importance.

When in opposition there is no need to offer solutions, the role is simply to disrupt, argue and oppose.

This needs to change if, as a country, we want a better future in which the social divide can be bridged with sound long-term planning that exists beyond the electoral cycle.

-Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, musician, social worker who can be appositionally defiant when provoked.