Study finds that people "cough on purpose during classical concerts"

Originally published at: Study finds that people "cough on purpose during classical concerts" | Boing Boing


I confess. I’m being guilty of handing out gum or drops to people coughing around me at classical concerts or at the opera…^^


That the rate of coughing might be higher in classical concerts is not too shocking. I think it’s a stretch to say it’s being done on purpose though. The article does suggest that people are waiting until slower/quieter parts in the music to cough, and notes that a similar phenomenon is observed in movie theatres.

Is it a conscious decision to cough, something sub-conscious, or a physiological reaction to the conditions (e.g. crowded room with lots of germs floating around, dusty concert hall?) The article suggests that the crowd might be older than normal, with lots of people on ACE inhibitors, for which a side effect is coughing.

The linked article in the Independent is an example of crap science reporting though. We’re given no insight into the methods used in the study and we’re asked to take the author’s word for it. They don’t even link to the (likely paywalled) article.


Sitting quietly for hours also doesn’t allow for the natural process of expectoration to occur, as opposed to normal activities when one would be speaking and clearing one’s throat as part of the process of making sounds with one’s lungs and vocal chords. So comparing the two modes of being is not really appropriate. It makes sense that sitting around quietly would result in a greater need to cough and clear one’s throat over the same period of time.


I agree, but the numbers cited in the article were that people coughed more during a concert than they did at other times (i.e a higher rate of coughs/hour during classical concerts than “normal”). If people were stifling coughs, you’d expect a lower rate of coughs per hour, even if the coughs happen at quiet/slow moments in the performance.

But it just underscores the lack of methodological details in the report, without which I have to assume the study was flawed. Like, what were the null conditions they measured?


Wonder how much the “imp of the perverse” psychological construct was considered in the “on purpose” aspect…? Sitting there, mentally distracting oneself from a boring bit wondering about “what’s the worst thing one could do at this point?” and then trying not to consider a tickle in the throat…? “It wasn’t me, officer! It was my Id!”


I distinctly remember large amounts of coughing every time there was a pause during the symphony’s performance and felt it strange, but then thought maybe allergy season had something to do with it. Then I thought, why aren’t they coughing while the music is playing? People are just silly.

1 Like

When all that human silliness results in is politeness I’m all for it.


But if people are coughing on purpose, as this post reports, that’s impolite.

Okay, but do you think most are coughing on purpose? I don’t.

I think the rate of coughing could well be higher, but for reasons others have spelled out above, not because most people are perversely doing it on purpose.

Sounds like junk science to me.


It becomes so predictable during a performance that, yes, I think it is purposeful.

Hmm. Well, maybe it comes down to your estimation of other people being more cynical than mine. :person_shrugging:


Maybe it’s allergies to rosin. Or trying not to clear your throat for a while engenders coughs. Or, it’s like telling people, do Not think of orange elephants, whatever you do.


Once again proving people are jerks by default.

I call (cough) bullshit.

1 Like

TBF, I’d cough more if I was sitting on an old velvet chair that might still be stuffed with horsehair, in an auditorium full of generations of other people’s dander and sheddings.

Tho I would also absolutely have brought my hip flask and some sweeties, so there’s that.


Don’t think about pink elephants cough.

1 Like

You just need to react like Bugs Bunny did in an earlier part of (I think) the same short: