The Effects of Noise on Cognitive Performance and Helplessness in Childhood: A Review

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Environmental noise affects our daily functioning in many ways, and the cognitive, motivational, and emotional effects of noise are intertwined. Our task performance under noisy conditions depends on our ability to cope with the noise and our cognitive resources. The process of (failed) coping may wear us out cognitively, lead to learned helplessness, and, consequently, alter the motivation to persist in a task. The direct effect of irrelevant sounds on cognitive functioning in children is relatively well-established, however, the research on the framework of learned helplessness is limited when it comes to children. Learned helplessness can give more insight into effects of environmental noise on learning and child development and how the effects of short-term and long-term exposure interact. A systematic literature review is performed to assess to what extent the current evidence addresses the (interaction) effects of the sound environment on cognition and learned helplessness as measured by motivation in children and young adults up to the age of 21. The search resulted in 8 included papers that addressed both cognition and learned helplessness in their research. The included papers study children between 8-13 years old and show evidence for a relation between environmental noise, cognition, and helplessness individually, but none study a possible interaction. Based on the individual study designs, it could be hypothesized that cognitive fatigue may play a role in the interaction. Studies that conducted motivation tasks after cognitive tasks found stronger effects than those that conducted tasks in a random order. More research is needed using the same methods in different age groups to further assess the interaction between cognition and learned helplessness in relation to the sound environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number288
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • children
  • cognition
  • environmental noise
  • learned helplessness
  • motivation


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