« Freakonomics Radio

190. Time to Take Back the Toilet

2014-12-18 | 🔗
Public bathrooms are noisy, poorly designed, and often nonexistent. What to do?
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So that is a question for you today. You agree that you and I are fundamentally pretty different people. Yes, I would do but of all the ways in which were different would you say is maybe the biggest difference proper you like people- and I done up- that's not what I was thinking of. Ok, here's! What I'm thinking you seem to be almost entirely unaffected by your physical surroundings, gesture that from fair return, whereas ridicule me for being too sensitive like if the lights go out or something you're, ok, donor just keep
what's the problem but like when you're working or even you know, filling out your horse, betting stuff, you could be in the desert, you could be in a room with a hundred fifty decibels. You can and you just you're, just a machine you just it doesn't matter kid. Would you agree that that's a pretty fundamental difference between tax area, but there's a downside to do, which is that when I get dragged to nice place I'd, never appreciate you don't know how to be heard on you know if I don't care whether I met a dingy it or you know, standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon then am I get the feeling that other appreciate things that I don't appreciate. Maybe some you make up for another, but here a scenario that really bothers me that I want to talk to you about today but you may be there on going to talk about it to cause. I have a feeling it doesn't bother. You at all so you and I both
travel long fly a lot and here's my thing in airport restrooms, particularly, but in public restrooms of all types they are usually totally devoid of any music. Other masking sounds so it's like you walk in the cycle I bury punctuated by the sound of travelling men using toilets and advise me body does that body? you? Even do you even know what I'm talking about now doesn't have sent me to answer it upsets you could You notice that have you ever noticed. Like let's say I don't we don't need to get to graphic here, although with radios. please you to get graphic, but you know you walk into a men's room in theirs. Let's say: there's three zones right, there's the the sink zone. the Euro Zone and the stalls zone and the stalls and talking about trying to stay away from the start and pretty goodest anyway,
The stars believe me. I do too. I do too, but you know, audio waves, travel into the sink zone and the Euro zone, and the union Adele, and so in that I feel like I feel like when I hear, going on in that stall zone. I think how can I invite more heavily in gas through interaction GI because the needs of american manner plainly huge fake MASH unit of people in gastric distress in it and I hate it. We ve never been bothered by this. It's disgusting, but honestly, I'd really try to avoid restrooms where there are lots of men to in fireworks. So maybe we're not so different in that particular regard. It just said: made my own abilities to avoid these places are stronger than you. I'm happy
from w? And my see this is free economics, radio, the package that explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host, Stephen Governor, here's. What confuses me spent every public space. You go to these days. You'll hear Music Bingley, some kind of a sound scape stores, restaurants, the doctors office, Jim, the airport, the rental car counter at the airport, the guy
camp outside the rental car counter at the airport. So that's a lot of sound to deal with and the one place you wanna hear: music with one place. I want to hear music. The public restaurant did for some reason, features only the sounds of nature, which are to some ears unsettling. Why is it and how does all music and other places affect us. Does it really make us by more and stores eat more in restaurants? Join. Are the answer to questions like that? If the start with Ronald Milman, he spoke to us from his cabin, unlike Barkley Kentucky, I'm actually
western article, twenty million is retired. He spends lot of his time here. Fishing, hopefully logo on readier fast catfish, are like a fish for had catfish so very much. I dislike the first goal, as might be an album out later it all out and early morning, just so quiet peace body here the burden you're. The ways why she says about the end of its obvious is really going on. No woman was a professor marketing at Western Kentucky University before that, when it was getting speech,
in his own it. You did a radio station Polly Access that we had a radio station was a at them sub carrier or we could transmit background music and up stores. Sauntered zealous office is less whereby this got melamine to wondering. I won't want some idea of what kind of music the fact yeah, what kind of music to to provide your wasn't much of any research out there at all music, the company that got famous for making beckoned he's a good elevator. Music did make some research claims, but Milman found it completely. Unscientific
He says they claim their music did amazing things: reducing turnover of increasing productivity, helping in terms of job back from tat month. Dahmer things like that and, as our colleague has some research showed, it could increase the productivity of house activity of Chicken bookshop later. When I got into it, it wasn't very scientific, but at any rate that, because there was no research done in that area is something I made no oven thought what it is like. The pursuit now is one more reason.
my Ronald Melvin, might have been a little bit more interested in the average person in measuring the effects sound. I had perfect vision. Tat was eight through a very rare illness thy contract causing aloft most mother. I have partial there from about aid to seventeen thou off my eyesight at seventeen Russia. What I had very great rustling oxides of arson, Rushworths, arrest, writing guys with mine through undergraduate graduate school
mom, there's a doctor in Houston that felt he could restore my vision by now, Milman was in his first academic job at the University of Texas at Arlington. He went in for surgery and sure enough, but did restore my version. Where fact I have incredible that lie ahead, though, like twenty fifteen measure, twenty envision, something I mean just twenty twenty is normal vision, and I am much better left for a while, but it was a real challenge to keep it because I was a lot of lava applications that are Roy. What are we prepared to work with? These complications came many more surgeries. More than fifty I had vision for about four years or thereabouts. I was actually driving a car and an early and enough against complications. I just I lost all laughed at all it firmly, but I had lost my eyes like life blind again,
he turned back to sound proves research. There was a grocery store in the dark Fort worth area. I just happened. I knew the manager of the store sums. This man, We are agreed to let Milman set up an experiment. I want to know whether the background music affect The aim here and anyway here's how they said they play fast, music, slow, music and no music and see if it changed how people shocked, fell. Then comes the question all right, then, how do you fine fallen. How'd you find me. Women and the other researchers play music for a group of people shocked at the grocery store. They asked them. Do you think this is Slow music is as fast as I recall, the musical humping, like seventy three were suddenly forbidding fur or slower. I think so that would be
like this board this gravy I am raising in the past years with something like ninety four. Ninety six be permanent and faster, like this mandate. For this now in actual music, they used in experiments, slope were fast, would have no lyrics, and then we possess and graduate students that appeared to be like ordinary customers like they were working up. Peter, whatever might be, the grand students had stop, watches no pants. They watched people and time them as they shot one day. They play fast music. Another day
slow music. Another day, no music at all. This went on for roughly two months. They have plenty of observations. They also stopped shoppers as it came out of the store and ask them. Do you remember if there is music playing in the store when you were shopping hears? one million wanted to know the basque people traversed the floor if it mainly deference, firstly, how much they purchase or whatever they are or what they purchase, but the other Are the study was how aware of amusing where they were? They were in the store where they we are all aware of the music buying or was a unaware that music buying or whatever so what they learn. And so what we found is TAT was a fast music. They did for virtue Stormont quite right, and it was significant wait, wait, wait! Wait. What do you think happens when people move through store more quickly, yet they dont by as much stuff, but what had
when you play the slow me gotTa Roy hissing, one because sales were significantly greater I think so, let's get I mean literally the five having statistical them significantly greater sales with a lower music buying than with fast background music with fast music playing the Dallas grocery store did about twelve, I was knowledge and sales each day with slow music. Sixteen thousand dollars. Interestingly, most of the shoppers ass, upon leaving the store about hearing music, couldn't recall whether or not they heard music. Furthermore, there wasn't a statistically significant difference between no music and slow music or no music and fast music, but between slow, music and fast music, a difference,
how development explain this theory was unworthy of reasonably. This was pretty accurate desert people simply as as his paw them down. They saw more. They remember that they needed or more. They wanted time. You like a glass down an aisle. You probably done when you shop yours into the audience or glance down the off everything down there. If you want or need from Milliman to take away from this, one study was pretty obvious: that's choir that music does affect people's behaviour, love different ways this daddy was one of the first in a field that would come to be known as atmosphere, Ex post, sound and smell and other factors influence our behaviour. Milman did a ton of work in this area,
one study was similar to the grocery store study. But this time he did it in a restaurant. There too, he found the slow music makes people linger, which is great news. If you're trying to some were alcohol or maybe deserve, and if you need to turn over tables faster, bring the fast music by now, there's been enough research that we know a good bit about how are affected by different types of music and other sounds. Can the right music can reduce stress for a patient waiting for surgery? Now the kids do better on math tests classical music lead people to buy more wine than top forty music, but the wrong music for the wrong sounds to be bad for you too, if you work in an open office, for instance, also known as a cubicle You more likely to be stressed out less productive, less satisfied that in large part, because you are getting a lot of stimuli that you don't ask for other people.
conversations and phone calls, and we cannot simply shut these out, no matter how good you think you are concentrating, we all have a limited amount of auditory bandwidth. And as the sound expert Julian treasure likes to say we don't have any clear, this becomes more of a problem hearing someone else's noise, someone else's music everywhere you go everywhere, except the one place where you want some music louder faster. The bed please, the bathroom, coming up on for economics, radio it's time to take back the toilet. Anything literally, anything can be better than nothing is to be. An italian restaurant in California go to they tied to italian lessons and so while you're in the bathroom your hearing
you tell me: where is the translation? I got one more thing: you're travelling lot during the holidays. We need some noise to drown out whatever it is. You don't want to hear their nearly two hundred back episodes of economics, radio, just waiting to be downloaded. He can find our complete free archive for economics outcomes, less radio, also Itunes, and if you subscribe tunas or where you get your progress, we will said: Another episode every week, oh from W N Y see. This is for economics, radio, here's! Your host, Stephen Denmark. So there's a lot of music in public places in part because searches have found that music as a strong influence on how people behave so
see why they play music and stores, and restaurants and airports even surgical sweets, but why don't they play music in public restrooms? That is question we are asking today may strike you as juvenile anything. No one in his right mind would ask, but we are not the only people never thought about this Toilets in Abu Dhabi are fine there good its Harvey mulch. He is a professor of sociology in metropolitan studies, and why recently posted it and why use Abu Dhabi Campus, toilet really is my landing swat, because it's where all of these issues, is of city and of artifacts design all come together, particularly in the public restaurant knowledge is broad mandate. Is urban design is more narrowly a toilet scholar? One of his books is called toilet public restrooms
politics of sharing our knowledge of the history of public restrooms is very scattered, but one of the things that we do learn is the extraordinary variation there has been in the history of the world. In the Roma, empire. They had quite marvellous plumbing for their time and the aqueducts, and so and one of the things they applied. That too was public restrooms, the bath and bags were in general, are very social place. People went together. They met up together and some of the rooms held as many as sixty people, concerning mileage says, is quite beautiful with mosaics, the floor in the walls, the toy, let's arranged in a sort of semicircle, their built of stone A single slab of stone with a series of holes in the people? sitting as close together as we sit
when we sit on toilets and public restrooms. So there were no stalls and he's not what we think of as stalls today One of the interesting things is that they were told us, so the Togo was their store by wearing the toga You have a way of giving your private parts private Then, as you're sitting on the toilet, but knowledge agree is the modern public? Restrooms can be pretty unpleasant and we should really expect them to get better anytime soon. One reason doesn't change. Is that toilets in general and public restrooms there's a taboo, around them and where there's taboo, and you can't speak freely about something it becomes apply swear, there's not accountability, so, whereas the Iphone we can question how come it's like. This happens like that, wouldn't it be better to this or that oral soap over the living room. You can't really talk through a toilet.
No, it's one thing for but, like me, a resident of the richest country in the history of the world, to complain about the set up a public restrooms, but let's be real the bathroom. taboo. That knowledge is talking about, has much much much bigger implications. So the district of toilets of any kind is very skewed, and in some countries, India being a prime example. Pakistan, there is an absence of facilities, and what that means is that peat go in the open. They use what retrench they can find whatever hold. There might be this a problem, the sanitation, and it means that the mixing of human feces with what supplies happens and babies die. So children under five? That's the second largest cause of death. Almost fifty percent of the population of India is,
vacating. Under those circumstances, one the other aspects. It means women are put at a huge disadvantage and subjected to. purity worries because they got him their way in the night, very often in darkness, to go to the common place where this is done because other problems, cultural problems, which is that the very idea that women are going to the toilet itself The kind of taboo and can't be faced front on this taboo knowledge argues, extends the high places very high places and that's a problem because children under five- dying. Unnaturally is due number one to mount, but very close to. It is being reason by human waste because their unsanitary places and for the present the United
to go to bed for public restrooms in say India would be humiliation for him. So we ve got to get the topic. Agenda locally nationally and go there. Also practical issues, issues of priority cost Harvey knowledge has served on many building committees, even working with the most prominent, Architects of the world, never is Discussion about the substance of the toilet stalls and, as a result, you get the lowest person typically on the tone. A pole of the architectural firm is given that job and then they sort of call up the a supplier and they just What are the same stuff? One of the things that is kind of interesting is thinking about public restrooms, its job back. And he's a composer and sound designer think about all the architects and energy that gets put in
designing the physical locations that we go to, whether its base stations or restaurants or hotels. The vast majority of these instances there not putting nearly the same amount of thought into the sound of those spaces which includes what materials are being used for that The men of reverberation of sound betterments Company manmade, music, create sound scapes for all kinds of spaces, from small to very large, like the Dallas Cowboys Stadium has written a book called Sonic How sound transforms the way we think veal and buy a lot of examples of how sound functions in ways that we might not necessarily think in Moscow. Actually, there subway is a circle. It is basically a big loop and one the ways they give you information in an instant. Is that one direction, a mature where this clockwise your counterclockwise
All the announcements are made by male voice in any opposite direction in the loop is made by a female voice so that, even if you can't understand exactly what's being said, you know why direction. That train is going document agrees with Harvey knowledge that the sound of the average american public restroom is sub optimal why's that they put at one obvious problem the walls of the stalls aren't really walls, they don't go all the way up to the ceiling. For all the way down the floor, I mean I in Britain I've lived in Germany, they have walls, ITALY, as walls stall walls. That's you know, step one
then, if you want to get really groovy like the Japanese, they may not surprise you to learn that bathroom design in Japan is rather advanced. What your hearing is called the sound princess, as the story goes, japanese women were so put off by this. islands in public restrooms. They flush the toilet over and over again to mask the noise, which worked but also used a lot of water. The solution, a device that mimics the sound of an ever flushing toilet The Japanese you sound in all sorts of interesting ways. Many towns have into
arms mounted on public building throughout the city. This one plays a daily message, ran sunset, that's in much pseudo than our outside of Tokyo. The woman's voice is basically telling kids. It's time to go home now, the intercom sir networked around cities. They serve as an emergency broadcast system, in case of earthquakes, for instance. here in the? U S, we too have a history of sound design in public places. Job recommend again. The story is that elevator music began and when elevator manufacturers realise that people were very uncomfortable being in close quarters in a closed rooms, centrally. If you have to ask yourself if we feel that
to mask uncomfortable silence and an elevator. When you think we feel the need to mask uncomfortable noise and a public restroom. We stopped in two ladies room but outside of ladies room to ask people what they like to hear inside what eating would be the best. Can we say about what would you like us anything? Really anything would be better than nothing, maybe classical music. The Beatles different guy prematurely, beetles in public bathroom, I think we'll always be appropriate. I would probably choose to hear how denotes beyond say twenty four seven. I feel bad relegating them the bathroom, because they love them so much better them so much that I would want to hear them that frequently God, I've music. I guess I mean
Elevator, music. Everyone complains about that's a bathroom music returning to elevator music, where women's pay this something better. Music. the sociologist Harvey Knowledge in his tireless pursuit of toilet improvement once came across something There was used to be an italian restaurant in California that I would go to and they pay italian lessons and so while you're in the bathroom. Your hearing, can you tell me: where is the train station? You tell me where the train station it and then you're here in Italian, left a few, and I felt so. There are many ways to do it in ways that are amusing, charming, you can try out, have new groups audition and create new acts in Joe Becker, men would like to improve the sonic design of airport restrooms.
In a plane terminal you'd want to be relaxed the little that people generally or a little bit nervous when they go flying. So what could we do in terms of putting quiet ambulances in that would mask the unwanted, sound and actually kind of relax people before the on an airplane I went back to Steve Levitt, my for economics Running Co. Author to see where he lay that on this. Ok, so here's the plan- talks to me? Even you agree that it's not a great thing to listen to, especially if you're innocent bystanders and hear here's the paradox. It's not great to listen to yeah. There's very rarely music or other masking noise and public restrooms, whereas in other public areas like every other public area, hotel, lobbies, airport, stores, restaurants, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. There is you
there's a lot of music and publicly states, which can be me a great word horrible, depending on your preference. Don't you think it's all, but strange at the one place it I at least want a lotta muse, doesn't exist in all the other places where we might not want it does. Given your description, how love with the music have to be to actually protect you from the sounds you're afraid of pretty low I'm thinking it would sound like the loudest rave you ve ever been to the I think. That's part of the problem is that I think if there were subtle music, which was then into it was by. These sounds had distribute so much. I think you would only enhance your rage, wouldn't if it were subtle, music, you you're saying it would somehow highly or punctuate the bad sound yeah. Exactly that you believe. In light of this, I don't know I mean I think would be hard. I think, from what you're describing. I think that the sounds are so loud that I mean they're LAO, then conversation right here, but there's some thing about them, as peace
of punctuation in the midst of a vast silence of this pronounced silence that to me draws that much more attention to them. But I'll tell you the restroom at Dublin see there the radio station in New York were right. I do the show you walk in there and it really is like a funeral home and you just your little like little bare, batter and then is a couple stalls back there and even if you just standing washing your hands, even if you just got into Austria and you get with tat- I am Lamb and then, and then the sounds of human distress and I'm thinkin. This doesn't need to happen. This should be taken care of some. I mean we ve put a man on the moon. We ve done a lot amazing things, and so maybe this is a problem that no one cares about me and it's not worth thinking about. But if you were too, we were to put your brain on it any thoughts you think it's worth thinking about, you think the public restroom is there a place it
there is a little bit of our curate oriole attention. Now. I think this is if the penny at something only you care about and em. No one else cares about it. Getting rid of the penny, but dumb I don't know. I know I don't lose any sleep over it now. Maybe I will now maybe now returning going about them are be primed to be upset by hey. I just started. I just thought the answer dummy. Well. Do you own a set of headphones? yeah. No, I what believing aware the European Council is the bathroom and just turn up your music really louder be done. So you don't mind the smell I dont want even get into this now So for me the smell would be at the top of the list in the sound would be quite secondary. I would trade smell or site for sound myself, say who's free and say now
you're. Taking this already bad idea too much darker place. I guess there's one more thing before we go. We need your help for a future episode. We recently put out a two harder on education reform, and now we want to hear from you on this topic. So here's a question: if you had to pick one thing to change education system, where you live? What would it be and why one we wanted the core. Your answer on your phone and email us the file to radio at for economics, dot com.
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-12.