Auditory distraction in open-plan study environments: Effects of background speech and reverberation time on a collaboration task

Ella Braat - Eggen (Corresponding author), Marijke Keus van de Poll, Maarten Hornikx, Armin Kohlrausch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Previous research has shown that semantic-based tasks are negatively influenced by semantic aspects in
background speech. Collaboration is an important task in open-plan study environments and is a semantic
task which might be disrupted by background speech. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze
the influence of irrelevant background speech on student-collaboration.
Participants worked in pairs to solve spot-the-difference puzzles, by using the ’DiapixUK’ collaboration
task, while they were exposed to different background sound scenarios. The composed sound scenarios
varied in semantic content (mother tongue and foreign language background speech) and reverberation
time (short vs long), the latter affecting speech intelligibility.
Although a longer reverberation time decreases the intelligibility of background speech and a foreign
language decreases meaningfulness of speech, no significant changes in performance were found. On the
other hand, the data show an increased perceived disturbance for a longer reverberation time, which we
interpret as an increased difficulty of interpersonal communication in the collaboration task due to the
increased level of the background speech. The quiet reference condition was the most preferred sound
condition which is in line with both the effect of a low background sound level and the absence of semantic
interference.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-160
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Acoustics
Volume154
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2019

Keywords

  • Background speech
  • Collaboration task
  • Language
  • Noise disturbance
  • Open-plan study environments
  • Reverberation time
  • Task performance

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