Effects of auditory distraction on cognitive processing of young adults

Leonard L. LaPointe, Gary R. Heald, Julie A.G. Stierwalt, Brett E. Kemker, Trisha Maurice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective: The effects of interference, competition, and distraction on cognitive processing are unclearly understood, particularly regarding type and intensity of auditory distraction across a variety of cognitive processing tasks. Method: The purpose of this investigation was to report two experiments that sought to explore the effects of types of distraction (4-talker babble; word repetition; combined 4-talker babble with word repetition) when compared to a control condition of quiet on a range of computerized measures (simple reaction time; choice reaction time; serial pattern matching; lexical decision-making; visual selective attention; response reversal and rapid visual scanning; and form discrimination) in 40 young adults (Experiment 1). Results: Few distraction effects were found on cognitive processing at the comfortable loudness level (40dB SL). In Experiment 2, statistically significant differences for choice reaction time and serial pattern matching (working memory) were found in both speed and accuracy when distractions were presented at perceived uncomfortable loudness levels (ULL) and compared with conditions of quiet and comfortable loudness level (40dB SL). Conclusion: Cognitive resource allocation models may be useful in interpreting the effects of auditory distraction on cognitive-linguistic processing, and this model may help to explain differential distraction effects in clinical populations with attention deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-409
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Attention Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Distraction
  • Intensity
  • Reaction time
  • Uncomfortable loudness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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