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A Shield against Distraction from Environmental Noise
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Environmental psychology.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Description
Abstract [en]

Working in noisy environments can be detrimental to cognitive performance. In order to perform well people have to find a way to attenuate distraction. This thesis aimed to study the balance between distractibility and task demands in the context of office-related tasks as a means by which to better understand how people in the work environment are influenced by environmental noise.

In Report 1, 2 and 3 higher focal-task difficulty was achieved by manipulating the readability of the text that participants were asked to read (i.e. either displaying the text in hard-to-read font or by masking it with static visual noise). The results of Report 1 and Report 2 showed that background speech impaired performance on proofreading and memory for written stories respectively compared to silence, but only when the focaltask difficulty was low, not when it was high.

In Report 3 it was shown that background speech, road traffic noise, and aircraft noise impaired performance on text memory compared to silence, but again, only when focal-task difficulty was low.

In Report 4 it was tested whether higher cognitive load on the focal task would reduce peripheral processing of a to-be-ignored background story. The results of Report 4 showed that participants in the low-load condition recalled more of the information conveyed in the to-be-ignored background story compared to participants in the high-load condition. It was also investigated whether individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC) would influence participants’ memory for written stories (Report 2) and incidental memory of the to-background story (Report 4) differently depending on task demand.

The results showed that individuals scoring high on the WMC-test were less distracted by background speech in the easy-to-read font condition (Report 2), and recalled less of the information in the to-be-ignored background story in the low-cognitive load condition (Report 4) compared to individuals that scored lower on the WMC-test. These relationships were not found in the hard-to-read font condition in Report 2, or in the high-cognitive load condition in Report 4. Taken together, these results indicate that higher focal-task difficulty can shield against the detrimental effect environmental noise on performance on office-related tasks. Moreover, it shows that higher focal-task difficulty can help individuals with low-WMC to reach a level of performance that is similar to that of high-capacity individuals.

Abstract [sv]

Människor som arbetar inom den byggda miljön (t.ex. kontor eller skolor) är ofta exponerade för olika typer av miljöljud (t.ex. bakgrundsprat, vägtrafiks- eller flygplansbuller) som kan ha en negativ inverkan på deras förmåga att prestera på kognitiva uppgifter (t.ex. läs- eller skrivuppgifter). För att kunna prestera behöver de som arbetar inom den byggda miljön hitta ett sätt att minska hur distraherade de blir av bakgrundsbuller när de arbetar med kontorsrelaterade uppgifter (t.ex. korrekturläsning eller minne för text). Syftet med denna avhandling var att studera balansen mellan distraktion och koncentrationskrav på arbetsuppgiften som ett sätt att undersöka vilken inverkan bakgrundsbuller i arbetsmiljön har på människors förmåga att prestera på kontorsrelaterade uppgifter.

I Rapport 1, 2 och 3 manipulerades koncentrationskravet på arbetsuppgiften genom att göra texten mer svårläslig (d.v.s. antingen använda ett mer svårläsligt teckensnitt eller genom att maskera texten med ett visuellt brus). Resultaten på Rapport 1 och 2 visade att bakgrundsprat försämrade prestationen på ett korrekturläsningstest och ett textminnestest jämfört med en tyst betingelse, men bara när texten var lättläslig och inte när den var svårläslig.

Rapport 3 visade att bakgrundsprat, vägtrafikbuller och flygplansbuller försämrade prestationen på ett textminnestest jämfört med tystnad, men återigen, bara när texten var lättläslig och inte när den var svårläslig.

I Rapport 4 undersöktes om ökad kognitiv belastning på en arbetsuppgift skulle minska hur mycket information av ett bakgrundsprat (d.v.s. en berättelse om en fiktiv kultur) som deltagarna kunde återge trots att de blivit instruerade att ignorera det som sades i bakgrunden. Resultatet visade att deltagarna i betingelsen med låg kognitiv belastning kom ihåg mer av informationen från bakgrundsberättelsen jämfört med deltagarna med hög kognitiv belastning. Denna avhandling undersökte också sambandet mellan individuella skillnader i arbetsminneskapacitet och storleken på hur distraherad individen var av bakgrundsprat (Rapport 2), samt sambandet mellan arbetsminneskapacitet och hur mycket individen mindes av det bakgrundsprat de blivit instruerade att ignorera (Rapport 4), och om dessa samband influerades olika beroende på koncentrationskravet på arbetsuppgiften.

Resultatet i Rapport 2 visade att individer med hög arbetsminneskapacitet blev mindre distraherade av bakgrundspratet jämfört med individer med låg arbetsminneskapacitet på prosaminnestestet, men bara när texten var lättläslig, inte när den var svårläslig.

Rapport 4 visade att i betingelsen med låg kognitiv belastning kom de med hög arbetsminneskapacitet ihåg mindre av bakgrundsberättelsen jämfört med individerna med låg arbetsminneskapacitet, men när den kognitiva belastningen var hög var det ingen skillnad i hur mycket deltagarna kom ihåg av bakgrundsberättelsen mellan individer med hög och låg arbetsminneskapacitet. Sammanfattningsvis visar resultaten att ökat koncentrationskrav på en arbetsuppgift, genom att öka svårighetsgraden (t.ex. genom att använda ett mer svårläsligt teckensnitt), kan skydda mot den negativa inverkan som bakgrundsbuller har på arbetsuppgifter som liknar de människor arbetar med på kontor. Vidare visade resultaten att ökade koncentrationskrav på arbetsuppgiften kan hjälpa individer med låg arbetsminneskapacitet att prestera i paritet med individer med hög arbetsminneskapacitet när arbetsuppgiften utförs i bakgrundsprat.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gävle: Gävle University Press , 2016. , 38 p.
Series
Studies in the Research Profile Built Environment. Doctoral thesis, 2
Keyword [en]
environmental noise, distractibility, task engagement, working memory capacity, office-related tasks
Keyword [sv]
miljöljud, distraktion, engagemang i uppgiften, arbetsminneskapacitet, kontorsrelaterade arbetsuppgifter
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-22956ISBN: 978-91-88145-07-9 (print)ISBN: 978-91-88145-08-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-22956DiVA: diva2:1051940
Public defence
2017-01-26, Krusenstjernasalen, Kungsbäcksvägen 47, Gävle, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-12-21 Created: 2016-12-05 Last updated: 2016-12-21Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Effects of speech on proofreading: can task-engagement manipulations shield against distraction?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Effects of speech on proofreading: can task-engagement manipulations shield against distraction?
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2014 (English)In: Journal of experimental psychology. Applied, ISSN 1076-898X, E-ISSN 1939-2192, Vol. 20, no 1, 69-80 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article reports 2 experiments that examine techniques to shield against the potentially disruptive effects of task-irrelevant background speech on proofreading. The participants searched for errors in texts that were either normal (i.e., written in Times New Roman font) or altered (i.e., presented either in Haettenschweiler font or in Times New Roman but masked by visual noise) in 2 sound conditions: a silent condition and a condition with background speech. Proofreading for semantic/contextual errors was impaired by speech, but only when the text was normal. This effect of speech was completely abolished when the text was written in an altered font (Experiment 1) or when it was masked by visual noise (Experiment 2). There was no functional difference between the 2 ways to alter the text with regard to the way the manipulations influenced the effects of background speech on proofreading. The results indicate that increased task demands, which lead to greater focal-task engagement, may shield against the distracting effects of background speech on proofreading. 

Keyword
Auditory distraction; Irrelevant speech; Proofreading; Task engagement
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-14971 (URN)10.1037/xap0000002 (DOI)000333095500006 ()24099531 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-84897611334 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2013-08-07 Created: 2013-08-07 Last updated: 2016-12-05Bibliographically approved
2. A shield against distraction
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A shield against distraction
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2014 (English)In: Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, ISSN 2211-3681, E-ISSN 2211-369X, Vol. 3, no 1, 31-36 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we apply the basic idea of a trade-off between the level of concentration and distractibility to test whether a manipulation of task difficulty can shield against distraction. Participants read, either in quiet or with a speech noise background, texts that were displayed either in an easy-to-read or a hard-to-read font. Background speech impaired prose recall, but only when the text was displayed in the easy-to-read font. Most importantly, recall was better in the background speech condition for hard-to-read than for easy-to-read texts. Moreover, individual differences in working memory capacity were related to the magnitude of disruption, but only in the easy-to-read condition. Making a task more difficult can sometimes facilitate selective attention in noisy work environments by promoting focal-task engagement. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2014
Keyword
noise, task difficulty, memory, distraction, selective attention, working memory capacity
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-16106 (URN)10.1016/j.jarmac.2014.01.003 (DOI)000352994000005 ()2-s2.0-84897660083 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, P11-0617:1
Available from: 2014-01-20 Created: 2014-01-20 Last updated: 2017-01-12Bibliographically approved
3. Distracted While Reading? Changing to A Hard-to-read Font Shields against the Effects of Environmental Noise and Speech on Text Memory
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Distracted While Reading? Changing to A Hard-to-read Font Shields against the Effects of Environmental Noise and Speech on Text Memory
2016 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 7, 1196Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this study was to investigate the distractive effects of background speech, aircraft noise and road traffic noise on text memory and particularly to examine if displaying the texts in a hard-to-read font can shield against the detrimental effects of these types of background sounds. This issue was addressed in an experiment where 56 students read shorter texts about different classes of fictitious creatures (i.e., animals, fishes, birds, and dinosaurs) against a background of the aforementioned background sounds respectively and silence. For half of the participants the texts were displayed in an easy-to-read font (i.e., Times New Roman) and for the other half in a hard-to-read font (i.e., Haettenschweiler). The dependent measure was the proportion correct answers on the multiple-choice tests that followed each sound condition. Participants’ performance in the easy-to-read font condition was significantly impaired by all three background sound conditions compared to silence. In contrast, there were no effects of the three background sound conditions compared to silence in the hard-to-read font condition. These results suggest that an increase in task demand - by displaying the text in a hard-to-read font - shields against various types of distracting background sounds by promoting a more steadfast locus-of-attention and by reducing the processing of background sound. 

Keyword
text memory, distraction, background speech, aircraft noise, road traffic noise
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-22201 (URN)10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01196 (DOI)000380993800002 ()27555834 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-84988663609 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, P11-0617:1Swedish Research Council, 2015-01116
Available from: 2016-08-09 Created: 2016-08-09 Last updated: 2016-12-05Bibliographically approved
4. Central load reduces peripheral processing: evidence from incidental memory of background speech
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Central load reduces peripheral processing: evidence from incidental memory of background speech
2015 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, ISSN 0036-5564, E-ISSN 1467-9450, Vol. 56, no 6, 607-612 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Is there a trade-off between central (working memory) load and peripheral (perceptual) processing? To address this question, participants were requested to undertake an n-back task in one of two levels of central/cognitive load (i.e., 1-back or 2-back) in the presence of a to-be-ignored story presented via headphones. Participants were told to ignore the background story, but they were given a surprise memory test of what had been said in the background story, immediately after the n-back task was completed. Memory was poorer in the high central load (2-back) condition in comparison with the low central load (1-back) condition. Hence, when people compensate for higher central load, by increasing attentional engagement, peripheral processing is constrained. Moreover, participants with high working memory capacity (WMC)—with a superior ability for attentional engagement—remembered less of the background story, but only in the low central load condition. Taken together, peripheral processing—as indexed by incidental memory of background speech—is constrained when task engagement is high.

Keyword
Cognitive load, Memory, Working memory capacity, Attention, Task engagement
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-19927 (URN)10.1111/sjop.12246 (DOI)000365031100002 ()26355647 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-84947025599 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, P11-0617:1
Available from: 2015-06-29 Created: 2015-06-29 Last updated: 2017-01-09Bibliographically approved

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