Home Email this page Print this page Bookmark this page Decrease font size Default font size Increase font size
Noise & Health  
 Next article
 Previous article
Table of Contents

Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Citation Manager
Access Statistics
Reader Comments
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
 * Requires registration (Free)

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded209    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 15    

Recommend this journal


Year : 2003  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 21  |  Page : 63--76

Indispensable benefits and unavoidable costs of unattended sound for cognitive functioning

School of Psychology, Cardiff University, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
R W Hughes
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, PO Box 901, Cardiff, CF10 3YG
United Kingdom
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 14965454

Rights and PermissionsRights and Permissions

Critical to survival, and also to the organism's efficient management of the flow of information in the brain, is attentional selectivity; the ability to select one source of information to guide action whilst ignoring others that are irrelevant to the current behavioural goal. But such selectivity is not merely the inclusion of the relevant information and the complete neglect of irrelevant information. We discuss in this paper the way that all sound is processed in an obligatory fashion - whether relevant or irrelevant - and discuss the fate of sound in the case when it is irrelevant to the immediate mental task. Using the so-called irrelevant sound paradigm we show that unattended information is both registered and organised. This obligatory process of organisation compromises the efficiency of particular types of mental activity. We discuss how such interference comes about but the key emphasis is upon the possible beneficial effects of such processing-of-the-irrelevant, in allowing the switching of attention to be more facile and intelligent and in allowing the accumulation of evidence about statistical regularities in the auditory world (such as those helpful to the efficient perception, acquisition and use of language). In sum, we describe how purposeful processing based on directed attention is in a state of tension with the obligatory, automatic processing of the unattended. One of the consequences of this tension is typically manifested in auditory distraction, but the benefits of processing of the attended may considerably outweigh this disadvantage.


Print this article     Email this article