UNSW Canberra

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  • (2023) Zhou, Hang
    Noise and workload are both stressors. Stressors are known to affect cognitive performance. While the effect of workload on cognition is widely known, the effect of noise is less understood. Broadband noise at moderate levels (<85 dBA) is typical in many workplaces. Dynamic decision-making (DDM), a complex cognitive task, is required in many workplace settings where moderate broadband noise is present. Understanding how stressors such as noise affect DDM is essential, especially in safety critical professions such as aviation and emergency response. Therefore, the aim of the present research was to understand the effect of moderate broadband noise on DDM and the moderators that can influence the extent of that effect. Study 1, the first of the three studies, was a systematic review for the effect of moderate broadband noise on cognition such as reaction time, attention, short-term memory, long-term memory and high(er)-order cognitive tasks such as DDM. The findings showed that no previous studies investigated the effect of moderate broadband noise on DDM. Study 2, the first of two empirical studies examined the link between noise at 75 dBA, sex, workload, and session on DDM (performance and learning). Study 3 introduced the moderator of financial incentive and additional instructions. The results indicated females’ performance in DDM was affected by noise at low workload, but not high workload. Males were overall unaffected by noise regardless of the workload level. In terms of learning, noise initially impaired females’ performance, however this was overcome in Day 2. The added instruction had the same positive effect on learning performance, as it neutralised the noise effect. Monetary incentives did not moderate the noise stressor. These results highlight the detrimental effect of the stressor noise on DDM, and how its effect on sex can be offset by clear training instructions. The effect of noise can be beneficial to performance in the presence of another stressor, such as high workload, which is supported by theories such as Arousal Theory and Maximal Adaptability Theory. From applied perspective, this finding implies that noise can be a tool to facilitate performance in high workload.