The Effect of Continuous Unintelligible Talking Noise on Physiological Stress Response and Working Memory Recall
Journal of Advanced Student Sciences (JASS)
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Cognitive control allows us to function in a distractionfilled environment. Audible distractions compete for our attention as we attempt to focus on learning, recalling past events, or solving difficult problems. Previous studies suggest that noise triggers a surge of stress hormones, making it more difficult for the brain to complete complex cognitive tasks, particularly those that utilize working memory. In this study, we investigated the effect of background talking noise on physiological stress response and working memory task performance. We hypothesized that physiological stress would increase and cognitive performance would decrease when subjects were exposed to a continuous, unintelligible talking noise during a working memory task. Participants between ages 2023 (n=26) were assigned randomly to one of two conditions: a control group with exposure to no auditory stimulus (n=13) and an experimental group with exposure to the unintelligible talking noise (n=13). Blood pressure, heart rate, and electrodermal activity (EDA) were monitored for the duration of the working memory task, and task performance was recorded. Results indicated no significant effect of the experimental stimulus on heart rate, EDA, or cognitive task performance. However, the data trended towards our hypothesis, which suggests that the distraction of unintelligible talking noise may elicit a weak physiological stress response without decreasing cognitive task performance. A significant difference in mean arterial pressure (MAP) between the control and experimental groups was found. Further research is needed to better characterize the relationship between distracting auditory stimuli, physiological stress response, and cognitive performance.
An article that appeared in JASS, issue 2016