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Why are background telephone conversations distracting?
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Environmental psychology.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Environmental psychology.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational and Public Health Sciences, Occupational health science. University of Gävle, Centre for Musculoskeletal Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6668-5044
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Environmental psychology.
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2018 (English)In: Journal of experimental psychology. Applied, ISSN 1076-898X, E-ISSN 1939-2192, Vol. 24, no 2, p. 222-235Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Telephone conversation is ubiquitous within the office setting. Overhearing a telephone conversation-whereby only one of the two speakers is heard-is subjectively more annoying and objectively more distracting than overhearing a full conversation. The present study sought to determine whether this "halfalogue" effect is attributable to unexpected offsets and onsets within the background speech (acoustic unexpectedness) or to the tendency to predict the unheard part of the conversation (semantic [un]predictability), and whether these effects can be shielded against through top-down cognitive control. In Experiment 1, participants performed an office-related task in quiet or in the presence of halfalogue and dialogue background speech. Irrelevant speech was either meaningful or meaningless speech. The halfalogue effect was only present for the meaningful speech condition. Experiment 2 addressed whether higher task-engagement could shield against the halfalogue effect by manipulating the font of the to-be-read material. Although the halfalogue effect was found with an easy-to-read font (fluent text), the use of a difficult-to-read font (disfluent text) eliminated the effect. The halfalogue effect is thus attributable to the semantic (un)predictability, not the acoustic unexpectedness, of background telephone conversation and can be prevented by simple means such as increasing the level of engagement required by the focal task. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 24, no 2, p. 222-235
Keywords [en]
Office noise, distraction, halfalogue, predictability, task-engagement, disfluency
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-27351DOI: 10.1037/xap0000170ISI: 000434353200007PubMedID: 29878842Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85048218505OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-27351DiVA, id: diva2:1223272
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2015-01116EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, ITN FP7-607139
Note

Funding agencies:

- Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grant no: 418623-2013

Available from: 2018-06-25 Created: 2018-06-25 Last updated: 2018-09-05Bibliographically approved

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Marsh, John E.Ljung, RobertJahncke, HelenaMacCutcheon, DouglasVachon, François

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Marsh, John E.Ljung, RobertJahncke, HelenaMacCutcheon, DouglasVachon, François
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