BBC News looks at the psychology of portable music players, the significance of the aura or bubble that surrounds one the moment the music starts, and why it’s so appealing. A key point is that headphones in part allow one to regain control of the senses – the world represents a bombardment of visual and sonic messages, and by replacing the sonic shell, you in part get to choose your sensual world, rather than moving through the one the world chooses for you.
I didn’t start wearing a music player until my late 30s, and remember the experience being very different than expected at first – it wasn’t just fun to listen to music – the iPod literally changed the way I felt in the environment. It was almost too much. The experience feels much more normal to me now.
Some women use earphones to deflect unwanted attention, finding it easier to avoid responding because they look already occupied. In the same way, removing earphones when talking to someone sends a strong message about how interested one is in what is being said. It pays the speaker a compliment.