Take off your headphones, guys. The Weeknd’s new album is going to have to wait until you get home, because a study published by the Acoustical Society of America says that hearing “meaningful” sounds decreases performance on cognitive tasks.
According to EurekAlert!, researchers studied the difference between “meaningful” (like music and convos) and “meaningless” (like a pseudo-noise) sounds by playing these sounds to volunteers, while they had to count how many times certain colored squares showed up on a screen.
The volunteers then rated how annoying the sounds were on a scale from one to seven. The researchers also measured the subject’s brain waves through electrodes on their scalps.
“The study revealed that more meaningful noises, such as music and conversation, had a stronger effect on levels of subjective annoyance than meaningless noises-- and lead to a greater decline in performance on cognitive tasks involving memory or arithmetic tests,” says EurekAlert!
“In addition, when meaningful noise such as speech was presented to the subjects, their EEG measurements showed large reductions in the P100 and P300 components, indicating that selective attention to cognitive tasks was influenced by the degree of meaningfulness of the noise.”
So basically, you’re totally justified in giving your co-workers dirty looks when they don’t stop talking. But also basically, you’re screwed because music will only make it worse.
Awk. Maybe we should all just wear ear muffs at work when we need to focus. That’s socially acceptable, right?
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