I wrote about Boing Boing the other day, and they send us another good one today. They report on Bart Kosko's new book, Noise, in which he argues that working against background noise can strengthen your mind by making you concentrate more. I am writing this from a café with classical music in the background, and conversation going on around me.
On the other hand, I heard on NPR the other day that kids who try to do homework with the television on do much worse at remembering what they have read. I listened to the NPR story as background to reading the newspaper and eating breakfast. I remember the NPR story. But I couldn't tell you what I read in the paper.
I find that I like café noise for reading and writing. I do not like television or music with words, though – it is too hard for me not to pay attention to the meaning of the words.
Of course, I am often surprised at how often people tell me about songs they really like, but they can't tell me what the words are. Sometimes they have even memorized the words enough to sing them, but have never really thought about what they mean.
So maybe I am weird. Or maybe this is another knowledge class culture detail. Cafés yes; t.v. no.