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Unmasking the effects of masking on performance: the potential of multiple-voice masking in the office environment
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Environmental psychology. (Miljöpsykologi)
Chalmers University of Technology.
School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Environmental psychology. (Miljöpsykologi)
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2015 (English)In: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, ISSN 0001-4966, E-ISSN 1520-8524, Vol. 138, no 2, p. 807-816Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Broadband noise is often used as a masking sound to combat the negative consequences of background speech on performance in open-plan offices. As office workers generally dislike broadband noise, it is important to find alternatives that are more appreciated while being at least not less effective. The purpose of experiment 1 was to compare broadband noise with two alternatives—multiple voices and water waves—in the context of a serial short-term memory task. A single voice impaired memory in comparison with silence, but when the single voice was masked with multiple voices, performance was on level with silence. Experiment 2 explored the benefits of multiple-voice masking in more detail (by comparing one voice, three voices, fivevoices, and seven voices) in the context of word processed writing (arguably a more office-relevant task). Performance (i.e., writing fluency) increased linearly from worst performance in the one-voice condition to best performance in the seven-voice condition. Psychological mechanisms underpinning these effects are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 138, no 2, p. 807-816
National Category
Applied Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-20031DOI: 10.1121/1.4926904ISI: 000360652900036PubMedID: 26328697Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84939808291OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-20031DiVA, id: diva2:841973
Available from: 2015-07-15 Created: 2015-07-15 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Disruption of writing in noisy office environments
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Disruption of writing in noisy office environments
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overall aim of the four experimental studies included in this dissertation was to investigate the influence of background speech on writing performance. In Paper I, a manipulation of speech intelligibility of background speech, by using the Speech Transmission Index (STI), revealed disruptive effects at lower STI values (i.e. with relative low speech intelligibility) than expected, based on an earlier developed model. This showed that writing is more sensitive to disruption from background speech than previously thought.

Experiment 1 in Paper II addressed the question whether the sound of babble, sound of water waves, or pink noise is the most effective and appreciated way of masking background speech to reduce its intelligibility and thereby its disruptiveness. Masking with babble was best. Experiment 2 in Paper II followed this finding up by showing that the disruption of writing by background speech is a function of the number of voices talking in the background—less voices, more disruption.

Paper III investigated the combined impact of background speech and task interruptions on writing performance. Background speech (which was played during the whole condition) after an interruption was expected to prolong the time it took to resume the same writing speed as before the interruption. This hypothesis was not confirmed, but participants’ self-reports showed that the combination of task interruptions and background speech convey a particularly high workload.

Paper IV explored what role sound source location and individual differences (inattention, noise sensitivity and working memory capacity) play in the disruption of writing by background speech. Self-reports showed that speech in front of the individual was perceived as more distracting compared to speech from behind. Other results in the same study showed that high inattentive individuals profit more from less intelligible speech located behind them than attentive individuals and high noise-sensitive individuals were more distracted by highly intelligible background speech than by less intelligible background speech.

The most important and replicable finding in this dissertation is that writing fluency is very sensitive to disruption from background speech; a finding relevant for the design of open work environments. In work areas where writing is a common task, the aim should be to create quiet work areas.

Abstract [sv]

Huvudsyftet med de fyra experimentella studierna som den här avhandlingen omfattar var att studera hur bakgrundsprat påverkar skrivandet av en text. I Artikel I manipulerades taluppfattbarheten (Speech Transmission Index; STI) i bakgrundspratet genom att till olika grad maskera talljudet med ett brusljud. Ljudet spelades sedan upp medan deltagarna arbetade. Resultaten visade att störningarna i skrivprocessen uppträder redan för lägre STI värden (d.v.s. redan vid låg taluppfattbarhet) än vad som förväntades baserad på en tidigare utvecklad modell.

Experiment 1 i Artikel II studerade vilket ljud (babbel, vågor eller brus) som är det mest effektiva och uppskattade för att maskera bakgrundsprat och reducera taluppfattbarhet i bakgrundsprat. Resultaten visade att babbel var bäst. Experiment 2 i Artikel II följde upp det här resultatet genom att visa att störningen från bakgrundsprat vid skrivande beror på antalet personer som pratar samtidigt i bakgrunden - färre röster, mer störning.

Artikel III fokuserade på hur skrivandet påverkas av att det, utöver bakgrundsprat, även finns andra avbrott i skrivuppgiften. Hypotesen var att bakgrundsprat (som spelades upp under hela betingelsen) direkt efter avbrottet skulle öka tiden det tar att nå samma skrivhastighet som före avbrottet. Den här hypotesen bekräftades inte, men deltagarnas självskattningar visade att kombinationen av avbrott och bakgrundsprat leder till en upplevelse av ökad arbetsbelastning.

Artikel IV undersökte huruvida ljudkällans position i rummet, samt individuella skillnader (uppmärksamhet, arbetsminneskapacitet och ljudsensitivitet) modererar hur bakgrundsprat påverkar skrivandet. Självskattningar visade att bakgrundsprat som kommer framifrån upplevs som mer störande än bakgrundsprat som kommer bakifrån. Resultaten visade även att personer som har en låg förmåga att bibehålla uppmärksamheten gynnades mer av bakgrundsprat med låg taluppfattbarhet som kom bakifrån än personer som har hög förmåga att bibehålla uppmärksamheten. Vidare var ljudkänsliga individer mer distraherade av bakgrundsprat med högre taluppfattbarhet, jämfört med lägre taluppfattbarhet.

Det viktigaste resultatet, som även replikerades mellan de olika studierna i den här avhandlingen, är att skrivprocessen är mycket känslig för bakgrundsprat; ett resultat som är relevant vid design av t.ex. öppna kontorslandskap. I arbetsomgivningar där skrivuppgifter är vanligt förekommande, bör tysta utrymmen skapas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gävle: Gävle University Press, 2018. p. 52
Series
Studies in the Research Profile Built Environment. Doctoral thesis ; 6
Keyword
background speech, writing, speech intelligibility, Speech Transmission Index, masking, sound source location, working memory capacity, inattention, noise sensitivity, task interruptions, bakgrundsprat, skriva, taluppfattbarhet, Speech Transmission Index, maskering, ljudposition, arbetsminneskapacitet, uppmärksamhet, ljudkänslighet, uppgiftsavbrott
National Category
Applied Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-26066 (URN)978-91-88145-21-5 (ISBN)978-91-88145-22-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-03-28, Lilla Jadwigasalen (12:108), Kungsbäcksvägen 47, Gävle, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-03-06 Created: 2018-01-29 Last updated: 2018-03-22

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Keus van de Poll, MarijkeMarsh, JohnLjung, RobertSörqvist, Patrik

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