Noise and Inattentiveness to Social Cues

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Results from a variety of studies suggest that under conditions of arousal and/or information overload, attention is focused on task-relevant cues at the cost of those that are less relevant to task performance. The stimuli under consideration in these studies have been exclusively nonsocial. To examine the effects of environmental stress on the processing of task-irrelevant cues of a social nature, subjects performed a free recall task in which they were instructed to recall six nonsense syllables presented serially under either noise or quiet. In all conditions, slides of social situations, each depicting either calm or distressed person(s), were presented just to the right of the nonsense syllables. After simulus presentation half of the subjects were given the expected recall test for nonsense syllables. The remaining subjects were instead given a recognition memory test for the peripheral social cues. While noise did not affect memory for the task-relevant cues (nonsense syllables), task-irrelevant cues (social-cue slides), regardless of whether they depicted calm or distressed persons, were remembered less well under noise than under quiet.




Published In

Environment and Behavior, 9, 4, 559-572.