A flurry of recent research has documented that talking on a cell phone poses a dangerous distraction for drivers and others whose attention should be focused elsewhere. Now, a new study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology finds that just the ring of a cell phone may be equally distracting, especially when it comes in a classroom setting or includes a familiar song as a ringtone.
"In any setting where people are trying to acquire knowledge and trying to retain that information in some way, a distraction that may just seem like a common annoyance to people may have a really disruptive effect on their later retention of that information," said the study's lead author, Jill Shelton, a postdoctoral psychology fellow in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
The study includes an experiment in which Shelton poses as a student seated in the middle of a crowded undergraduate psychology lecture and allows a cell phone in her handbag to continue ringing loudly for about 30 seconds.
Students exposed to a briefly ringing cell phone scored 25 percent worse on a test of material presented before the distraction.
Students tested later scored about 25 percent worse for recall of course content presented during the distraction, even though the same information was covered by the professor just prior to the phone ring and projected as text in a slide show shown throughout the distraction. Students scored even worse when Shelton added to the disturbance by frantically searching her handbag as if attempting to find and silence her ringing phone.
"Many of us consider a cell phone ringing in a public place to be an annoying disruption, but this study confirms that these nuisance noises also have real-life impacts," Shelton said. "These seemingly innocuous events are not only a distraction, but they have a real influence on learning."
They found song ring tones even more distracting than ringing sounds.
Big complaint: People in office settings should switch their phones to vibrate. If they do have the ringer on it should be turned way down. Also, when they get a call they should walk outside. The noise pollution is a big problem.
While I'm at it: allowing cell phone use on airplanes is an argument for driving. We really need sound deadening technology that will protect us from the noise pollution generated by others around us.
Any reader ever used a device that blocks cell phone frequencies? Such devices would be useful to turn on at the beginning of meetings and at symphony, opera, and ballet performances. Some places should be licensed to be allowed to turn on cell phone frequency jammers.
Are there any sociopaths among my readers who think it is okay to subject class mates and co-workers to your loud ringing cell phone?
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2009 June 01 11:24 PM Brain Performance|