Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

The Sound of Silence: Background Noise and Sustained Attention

Publication Date



Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Carole Scherling

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


For those of us that are not deaf, we are constantly surrounded by noise; even the quietest night is steeped with sound once you are still enough to hear it. Without realizing it, this constant cacophony of sound has clear effects on our thinking. One common relationship between our thinking and this ´ambient noise ́ is described by the concept of substantial attention. Experiments have demonstrated a link between higher cognitive functions and the mental arousal stimulated by external noise (Herweg, 2015). Thus, the present study examined the relationship between substantial attention and white noise and coffee-shop noise. One recent study suggests that our visual processing of an object or event in a particular location is improved when a notable but task-irrelevant noise is emitted from the same location, as our attention is enhanced and honed on that particular area (Maezawa, 2022). This has led us to believe that substantial attention for a visual attention task will be greater in groups performing a task with white noise in the background in comparison to groups performing the same task with coffee shop noise (talking) in the background. In order to evaluate this, 40 undergraduate students from Belmont University were recruited from an intro-level Psychology course at Belmont University. All participants completed the Mackworth Clock test (Mackworth, 1948), with the control group performing the task with white noise playing in the background, and the experimental group with coffee-shop sounds playing in the background while performing the task. The results are currently being processed, in which it is being runned as a between-sample T-test. This study offers an extensive understanding of substantial attention and background noises.

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