Distraction of mental arithmetic by background speech: Further evidence for the habitual-response priming view of auditory distraction
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When solving mental arithmetic problems, one can easily be distracted by someone speaking in the background and this distraction is greater if the speech comprises numbers. We explored the basis of this disruption by asking participants to solve mental addition problems (e.g. “45 + 17 = ?”) in three different conditions: background speech comprising numbers in ascending order (e.g. “61, 62, 63, 64, 65”), background speech comprising numbers in descending order (e.g. “65, 64, 63, 62, 61”), and quiet. Performance was best in quiet, worse in the descending numbers condition, and poorest in the ascending numbers condition. In view of these findings, we suggest that disruption arises as a by-product of preventing the primed, but inaccurate, candidate responses from assuming the control of action. Alternative explanations are also discussed.
Perham, N., Marsh, J.E., Clarkson, M., Lawrence, R. & Sörqvist, P. (2016) 'Distraction of mental arithmetic by background speech: Further evidence for the habitual-response priming view of auditory distraction', Experimental Psychology, 63 (3), pp. 141-149
This article was published in Experimental Psychology on 29 June 2016 (online), available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169/a000314
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