With all these technological advancements available around us, it is definitely harder to focus our attention to specific things these days. Imagine whenever we need to study and read a textbook, most likely, we would be doing it in front of our televisions or computers while watching our favorite show or playing our newly downloaded songs. We even call it multitasking when in fact these things might just be distractions. But have we ever thought how these sounds really affect our performances?
In a study by Wetzel, Widmann and Schröger (2011), they investigated how the informational content of a sound affects our visual performance. Basically, the participants were shown series of pictures and all they had to do was identify them as fast as possible. While doing that, the experimenters presented two types of sound distractions—a burst of white noise (deviant) and environmental sounds (novel). Surprisingly, they found that these sounds do not really cause behavioral distractions when they are uninformative with respect to the occurrence of the visual target. However, they informational content of these irrelevant sounds speeds reaction times. They also found that novel sounds shows bias toward facilitation.
Now that we know that, I guess it will be easier for us to control our attention. Whenever we need to accomplish a visual task faster, maybe we can play sounds that are meaningless to us and irrelevant to our task instead of playing our own choice of songs. In that way, we do not only try to avoid shifting our attention to some interesting yet distracting things but we might also help ourselves to finish our tasks on time. Just make sure that by doing this, we really get the desired effects because sometimes listening to meaningless sounds can feel irritating and uncomfortable. After all, you won’t really accomplish anything if you’re in a bad mood. 🙂
Wetzel, N., Widmann, A., & Schröger, E. (2011). Distraction and facilitation—two faces of the same coin?. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception And Performance, doi:10.1037/a0025856