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Cognitive Performance and Restoration in Open-Plan Office Noise
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Buildning science - applied psychology. (Environmental psychology)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6668-5044
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Kognitiv prestation och återhämtning under buller i kontorslandskap (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation presents four experimental studies (in four papers) with the overall aim to investigate the effects of office noise on cognitive performance and restoration. In the first two papers the focus was on the effects of different sound levels (i.e., the mean level from all sound sources at an office, such as speech, phones, people walking) on performance, fatigue and stress. In the last two papers the focus was on the effects of background speech, as this has previously been shown to be the most disturbing noise source in open-plan offices. Paper I demonstrated decreased word memory performance, increased fatigue and motivational deficits when the background sound level increased by 12 dB, from 39 to 51 dB LAeq. Paper II showed that the sound level effects were more pronounced for individuals with a hearing impairment. Unexpectedly, no effects were found of acute noise exposure on the participant´s stress hormone levels (Paper I and Paper II).

          Regarding effects of irrelevant speech, Paper III showed that cognitive performance decreased as a function of background speech intelligibility, the higher the intelligibility depicted by the Speech Transmission Index (STI), the worse the performance. The results indicated that the STI-value must be less than 0.50, to avoid a negative influence on performance. Further, both Paper III and IV showed that performance is more impaired by background speech if the focal task requires episodic memory and rehearsal—such as word memory and information search. Interestingly, some tasks were insensitive for speech.

          The restorative effects of a break were addressed in Paper I and II (i.e., directly after the work sessions in noise). The break period differed in content between the participants. Paper I showed that a break with a nature movie with corresponding sound increased energy ratings compared to just listening to river sounds or office noise. Continued exposure to office noise gave the lowest ratings of motivation after the break. Paper II showed improved arithmetic performance and motivation after the break with a nature movie and decreased performance and motivation after continued noise exposure. For the hearing impaired participants, however, continued noise during the break increased motivation and performance, while the movie did not.

          Taken together, the current thesis demonstrates that open-plan office noise can have a negative impact on fatigue, motivation and performance. How much performance is impaired varies with the cognitive processes required by the tasks performed and hearing status. Moreover, continued noise exposure during a short break can further decrease motivation and subsequent performance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2012. , p. 136
Series
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology, ISSN 1402-1544
National Category
Applied Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-13312ISBN: 978-91-7439-495-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-13312DiVA, id: diva2:565729
Public defence
2012-11-23, Luleå, 11:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2012-11-12 Created: 2012-10-28 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Open-plan office noise: Cognitive performance and restoration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Open-plan office noise: Cognitive performance and restoration
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2011 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Psychology, ISSN 0272-4944, E-ISSN 1522-9610, Vol. 31, no 4, p. 373-382Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2011
Keywords
working memory; emotion; physiology; open-plan office; stress; biology
National Category
Psychology Biological Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-9850 (URN)10.1016/j.jenvp.2011.07.002 (DOI)000296547100012 ()2-s2.0-80053614655 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2011-08-16 Created: 2011-08-15 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved
2. Performance, fatigue and stress in open-plan offices: the effects of noise and restoration on hearing impaired and normal hearing individuals
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Performance, fatigue and stress in open-plan offices: the effects of noise and restoration on hearing impaired and normal hearing individuals
2012 (English)In: Noise & Health, ISSN 1463-1741, E-ISSN 1998-4030, Vol. 14, no 60, p. 260-272Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Hearing impaired and normal hearing individuals were compared in two within-participant office noise conditions (high noise: 60 L Aeq and low noise: 30 L Aeq ). Performance, subjective fatigue, and physiological stress were tested during working on a simulated open-plan office. We also tested two between-participants restoration conditions following the work period with high noise (nature movie or continued office noise). Participants with a hearing impairment (N = 20) were matched with normal hearing participants (N = 18) and undertook one practice session and two counterbalanced experimental sessions. In each experimental session they worked for two hours with basic memory and attention tasks. We also measured physiological stress indicators (cortisol and catecholamines) and self-reports of mood and fatigue. The hearing impaired participants were more affected by high noise than the normal hearing participants, as shown by impaired performance for tasks that involve recall of semantic information. The hearing impaired participants were also more fatigued by high noise exposure than participants with normal hearing, and they tended to have higher stress hormone levels during the high noise compared to the low noise condition. Restoration with a movie increased performance and motivation for the normal hearing participants, while rest with continued noise did not. For the hearing impaired participants, continued noise during rest increased motivation and performance, while the movie did not. In summary, the impact of noise and restorative conditions varied with the hearing characteristics of the participants. The small sample size does however encourage caution when interpreting the results.

Keywords
hearing status, memory, emotion, physiology, open plan office
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-11204 (URN)10.4103/1463-1741.102966 (DOI)000311610100008 ()23117542 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-84870000953 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2012-01-04 Created: 2012-01-04 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved
3. Cognitive performance during irrelevant speech: effects of speech intelligibility and office-task characteristics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cognitive performance during irrelevant speech: effects of speech intelligibility and office-task characteristics
2013 (English)In: Applied Acoustics, ISSN 0003-682x, Vol. 74, no 3, p. 307-316Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Keywords
auditory distraction, speech transmission index, working memory
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-11205 (URN)10.1016/j.apacoust.2012.08.007 (DOI)000312975600002 ()2-s2.0-84870040118 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2012-01-04 Created: 2012-01-04 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved
4. Open-plan office noise: the susceptibility and suitability of different cognitive tasks for work in the presence of irrelevant speech
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Open-plan office noise: the susceptibility and suitability of different cognitive tasks for work in the presence of irrelevant speech
2012 (English)In: Noise & Health, ISSN 1463-1741, E-ISSN 1998-4030, Vol. 14, no 61, p. 315-320Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of the present study was to test which tasks are suitable for work in open-plan offices according to how susceptible they are to disruption produced by the mere presence of irrelevant speech. The tasks were chosen to tap fundamental capacities of office work involving: search for relevant information, remembering material, counting, and generation of words. The hypothesis was that tasks requiring semantic processing should be impaired by irrelevant speech. To determine the magnitude of performance decrease, two sound conditions (quiet, irrelevant speech) were compared. The results showed that tasks based on episodic short-term-memory and rehearsal of the presented material were more sensitive to disruption by irrelevant speech than tasks which did not require rehearsal or were based on long-term memory retrieval. The present study points to the inappropriateness of tasks, such as information search and remembering of material, for work environments within which irrelevant speech is ubiquitous.

Keywords
semantic auditory distraction; noise; working memory; long-term memory
National Category
Applied Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-11656 (URN)10.4103/1463-1741.104901 (DOI)000313350600010 ()2-s2.0-84872184330 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2012-03-29 Created: 2012-03-29 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved

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