Individual differences in objective effects of noise on performance were analyzed with respect to their distribution, temporal stability, and the precision of measurement to be attained. Seventy-two subjects had to memorize sequences of visually presented digits while being exposed to one of three auditory background conditions which were randomly mixed on a trial-by-trial basis: (1) foreign speech; (2) pink noise; and (3) silence. Individual “irrelevant speech effects,” operationalized by the difference in recall errors under speech and in silence, were normally distributed over a wide range extending from slight facilitation to severe disruption. When 25 subjects repeated the experiment after four weeks, the individual differences were replicated with a reliability of Internal consistency, a measure of the precision with which individual effects can be measured in a single session, was moderate However, both retest, and consistency coefficients are severely attenuated by the use of (sound-minus-silence) difference scores, the reliability of which is bound to be considerably lower than that of the original error scores whenever these are correlated. Given that the original error rates in a specific auditory condition can be determined with reliabilities approaching 0.85, it may be concluded that individual performance decrements due to noise can be reliably measured in the “irrelevant speech” paradigm. Self-report measures of noise susceptibility collected to explore potential sources of the large inter-individual variation exhibited only weak relationships with the objectively measured noise effects: Subjects were quite inaccurate in assessing their individual impairment in the three auditory conditions, and a questionnaire-based measure of general noise sensitivity only accounted for a small portion of the variance in objectively measured performance decrements, although in both cases the predictive relationship was much stronger in female than in male subjects.
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October 01 1997
Individual differences in susceptibility to the “irrelevant speech effect”
Wolfgang Ellermeier, Karin Zimmer; Individual differences in susceptibility to the “irrelevant speech effect”. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 October 1997; 102 (4): 2191–2199. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.419596
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