Background sounds have a disruptive effect on our ability to remember things. It has been shown that speech is the sound that has the most disruptive effects on our ability to remember information. This phenomenon was called as Irrelevant speech effect (ISE; Colle & Welsh,1976; Salamé & Baddeley, 1982).
Past research has focused on the disruptive effects of non-tonal languages (e.g., English and Spanish) on memory. Almost no research has investigated the impact of a tonal language (e.g., Mandarin and Cantonese) on memory.
We will use several different languages to study the disruptive effects of speech on visual memory. Thus, we are looking to recruit normal-hearing participants with different native languages, aged 18-40 years.
The outcomes of this research will improve our understanding of the negative impact of background noise on our ability to remember visual information. Results could inform interventions for people with different native languages who find other peoples' conversations distracting or disturbing when working in open-plan offices, or other places with high levels of background speech noise.
My PhD research aims to answer the following:
- Do native Mandarin speakers experience more disruption than English native speakers when trying to memorise visual information at the same time as listening to background sounds in different languages (Mandarin, English and Cantonese)?
- Which frequency area of irrelevant speech is important to produce ISE?
The research questions of my project are:
1a Do native Mandarin speakers experience more ISE than native English speakers when listening to Mandarin background sounds?
1b Do native Mandarin speakers experience more ISE than native English speakers when listening to Cantonese background sounds?
1c Do native Mandarin speakers experience most ISE in Mandarin (native, tonal) sounds and least ISE in English (non-native, nontonal) sounds?
1d Do native English speakers experience most ISE in English (native, non-tonal) sounds?
Experiment 2 (provisory)
2a Comparing with to-be-remembered digits, do the to-be-remembered symbols will have more ISE for native Mandarin speakers when listening to English sounds?
2b Comparing with to-be-remembered digits, do the to-be-remembered symbols will have less ISE for native Mandarin speakers when listening to Mandarin sounds?
Experiment 3 (provisory)
3 Which frequency area is the main area for English background noise to produce ISE?
Experiment 4 (provisory)
4 Which frequency area is the main area for Mandarin background noise to produce ISE?