Most people have a problem focusing when there is a distraction. Learning can suffer by distracting background sounds.
A study found that background and office noises decreased the performance of introverts in tasks involving reading comprehension and mental arithmetic. Performance during silence was the same for both personality types, suggesting introverts need silence when studying.
A common solution to noise is to play music or have the TV on. A study showed that white noise could improve focus in young adults when heard in low volume. The study showed slightly improved recognition memory of scene images and scans.
But caution is needed. One problem is that the study used recognition memory ("Do you remember seeing this scene?") instead of recall without cueing. Another problem is the lack of evaluation of the decibel level of white noise.
A recent study showed that white noise (20-20,000 Hz, 70 dB, via headphones) during initial learning negatively affected recall. The authors concluded that white noise has no beneficial effect on thinking and memory.
But white noise may have some value if general room noise needs to be masked, especially for people with attention deficits who are easily distracted by noise.
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