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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 49  |  Page : 199-200
Special issue on noise, memory and learning

Laboratory of Applied Psychology, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, University of Gävle, SE-801 76, Gävle, Sweden

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Date of Web Publication21-Sep-2010
How to cite this article:
Hygge S, Kjellberg A. Special issue on noise, memory and learning. Noise Health 2010;12:199-200

How to cite this URL:
Hygge S, Kjellberg A. Special issue on noise, memory and learning. Noise Health [serial online] 2010 [cited 2023 Dec 5];12:199-200. Available from: https://www.noiseandhealth.org/text.asp?2010/12/49/199/70495
We are happy and pleased to present a special issue on Noise, Memory and Learning to the readers of Noise and Health. The procedure for recruiting potential papers was initially to approach a number of important relevant research groups and ask them for a contribution and also to ask whether these research groups could suggest names of other groups or researchers that could be approached with an invitation.

The manuscripts that came in were subjected to the standard referee procedures, with Staffan Hygge as the main guest editor and Anders Kjellberg as the guest editor for the two papers where Hygge is one of the authors. Nine papers eventually passed the referee procedure.

In order to choose a presentation order of these nine papers, different organizing dimensions were relevant. Some of the bipolar nonorthogonal dimensions we had considered included (1) empirical study - theoretical/review; (2) scope of dependent measure(s): narrow-wide; (3) setting: lab-field; (4) setting: basic research - applied; and (5) noise source: speech - others. However, we were not able to find a dimension that was both clear-cut and easily applicable, so we basically defaulted to sorting the papers by family resemblance on the dependent measures starting out with serial recall.

The three papers in the first section deal with theoretical aspects of auditory distraction and interference-by-processes. In the first of these papers, Jones, Hughes and Macken set the scene by a theoretically oriented review of what noise does to serial recall. One form of distraction appears to be an ineluctable product of similarity of process (serial ordering of items to recall and the serial order coding of the sound). A second form of auditory distraction is attentional capture by an unexpected deviation in the irrelevant sound. This form of distraction is, in contrast to the first form, both general and avoidable. In their discussion, they argue that this form of short-term memory is a system for motor planning, a system that has memory-like qualities rather than being a strict memory system. Marsh and Jones, in the second paper, discuss ways in which the unavoidable interference-by-process is applicable also to a semantic-based setting rather than just serial order. One of their points is that the semantic characteristics of the to-be-ignored sound interact with the predominance of semantic retrieval in the focal task.

Sorqvist makes a theoretically guided review of working memory capacity in auditory distraction from task-irrelevant sounds. He bases this discussion of individual differences in distractibility on the distinction between interference-by-process, attentional capture and semantic processing and discusses the implications for persons, particularly children, with a low working memory capacity.

The four contributions in the following section deal with applied aspects of auditory distraction. In the first of these papers, Shield, Greenland and Dockrell review studies of noise in open-plan classrooms in primary schools. Measurements of noise levels have been remarkably consistent over the years. They point out that intrusive noise from adjacent classrooms and class bases (rooms opening off a common shared area, often with folding screens) continues to be a major problem. At the end of the paper, they discuss various appropriate control measures to reduce noise and maximize speech intelligibility and speech privacy.

Smith, Waters and Jones address the issues of habituation to noise and the Mozart effect. Their results indicate that although performance was initially impaired by office noise, the disruptive effect of background noise could be habituated to after a 10-minute period of exposure. Their study also replicated the Mozart effect on a spatial ability task and showed that this effect could not be explained by a change in mood.

The last two of the papers in this section deal with the effects of noise on children. Supplementary analyses are presented of data from the Munich study on aircraft noise and the RANCH-study on aircraft and road traffic noise. The paper by Matheson et al. indicates that aircraft noise in the RANCH-study was negatively associated with impairment of recognition memory. Surprisingly, there was also a positive relationship between road traffic noise and cued recall. Stansfeld, Hygge, Clark and Alfred report supplementary analyses from the Munich and RANCH studies about nighttime aircraft noise exposure and children's cognitive performance. They concluded that the nighttime aircraft noise exposure does not seem to add to children's cognitive performance decrement.

In the last section, the focus is on speech perception and understanding. Rφnnberg, Rudner, Lunner and Zekveld summarize studies in which perceptual load and cognitive load can be dissociated and suggest that if the phonological mismatch with the lexicon is sufficiently large, cognitive resources will be brought into play, which for persons with a low working memory capacity will be more of a burden than for persons with a high working memory capacity. Klatte, Lachmann and Meis report a study of children with regard to speech perception and language comprehension in noise and with different reverberation times. In no age group did a long reverberation time have any effect on speech perception in silence, whereas it had a marked effect in background noise conditions. For listening comprehension, children's performance was severely impaired by background speech and classroom noise - more so for the younger children, but adults were not affected.

To us as editors, it has been joy and pleasure to oversee scientific creativity at its best in the processes of helping these nine papers reach the printer! We are impressed with the depth and scope of the areas covered and very pleased with what we have seen.

We think that the first three papers on working memory and inference-by-processes have advanced our understanding of what goes on (and does not go on) in working memory and have made us understand that working memory is by no means a unitary concept. The other papers have approached noise, learning and memory from more practical perspectives, sometimes with a theoretical reference to working memory, sometimes not. We think that this has shed new insights into how to theoretically link working memory with other aspects of memory; and, in particular, how to approach the details in the process by which noise interferes with working memory and how this interference mediates (or not) the noise effect to episodic and semantic memory.

There is, however, in our minds a remaining question mark. The geographical dominance of Europe over the U.S. is marked in the collection of these papers. To a large extent, this dominance may currently be the case, but maybe we were biased and did not try hard enough to locate and invite relevant contributors from the U.S. and other parts of the world. Maybe any such bias can be corrected for in the future by encouraging and inspiring relevant research groups outside Europe to submit their manuscripts to Noise and Health.

Correspondence Address:
Staffan Hygge
Laboratory of Applied Psychology, Department of Building, Energy and Environmental Engineering, University of Gavle, SE-801 76 Gävle
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.70495

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