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Central load reduces peripheral processing: evidence from incidental memory of background speech
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Environmental psychology. University of Gävle.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Environmental psychology. 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.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7584-2275
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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 56, no 6, 607-612 p.
Keyword [en]
Cognitive load, Memory, Working memory capacity, Attention, Task engagement
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-19927DOI: 10.1111/sjop.12246ISI: 000365031100002PubMedID: 26355647Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84947025599OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-19927DiVA: diva2:827824
Funder
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, P11-0617:1
Available from: 2015-06-29 Created: 2015-06-29 Last updated: 2017-01-09Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. A Shield against Distraction from Environmental Noise
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Shield against Distraction from Environmental Noise
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
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
environmental noise, distractibility, task engagement, working memory capacity, office-related tasks, miljöljud, distraktion, engagemang i uppgiften, arbetsminneskapacitet, kontorsrelaterade arbetsuppgifter
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-22956 (URN)978-91-88145-07-9 (ISBN)978-91-88145-08-6 (ISBN)
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

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