Provide support for previous research findings that performance is adversely affected by noise, and to discuss the implications if this is true.

Authors Avatar


        We all frequently experience noise in the course of everyday life and we have probably all at some time or another heard someone remark ‘I can’t hear myself think’.  My colleagues and I have decided to investigate the truth behind this.  A decision was made to investigate the effects of noise on mental performance.  Firstly it is necessary to define what we actually mean by noise.  Noise is defined as any sound that can be considered loud or disturbing, it can be continuous or intermittent.  Mental performance can be described as how successfully participants carry out a certain mental test or task.

        Previous research by Broadbent (1954) suggests that sudden, loud, unpredictable noise may momentarily distract an individual from a task and thereby cause errors if the task requires much vigilance or concentration.  We believe however that this finding is low in ecological validity as noise in the workplace, or at school, where most individuals carry out performance tasks, is usually a continuous noise such as a machine operating in a factory.  For this reason we decided to base our research on regular noise, which is experienced more frequently in everyday life.

        Other research by von Wright & Nuimi (1979) compared noise affects on task performance among children aged 6 or 9 years old and adults.  All showed slower performance under noisy conditions.  My colleagues hope to find support for this finding that noise adversely affects performance.

        Studies by Hockey (1979) and by Smith & Stansfield (1986), both provide support for the theory that comprehension is the primary ‘victim’ of noise, i.e. it is affected most.  The researchers found that noise appears to reduce comprehension of reading material.  This relates to the current study as it investigated how noise affects performance on a word search, which is a task clearly requiring a degree of comprehension.

        Previous research has also suggested that extremely loud noise (>100db) has a more detrimental effect on performance than quieter noise (<90db).  We therefore used loud noise in the experiment to maximise the likelihood of finding evidence of the adverse affects of noise on performance.  Further more the definition of noise above indicates that noise is by definition ‘loud’ so it was necessary to use loud music.

Join now!

        In developing the hypotheses previous research regarding volume and type of noise, as well as type of performance task was taken into account.  We have chosen to use loud music for noise as this has been shown previously to adversely affect performance.  The type of noise used was a song as this type of noise has a regular repetitive structure similar to much of the noise we hear in real life.  The type of task used was a word search as previous research has indicated comprehension to be primarily affected by noise.

        The method chosen was a laboratory experiment.  One ...

This is a preview of the whole essay