Prediction of Work Efficiency in Early Adolescence under the Effects of Noise

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Our environment is becoming more polluted and the causes are detectable, especially in the rapid development of industry, traffic, and other "civilization needs." This "aggressive development" does not spare educational institutions, as schools become more endangered each day. In particular, noise is the most prevalent problem. The effect on early adolescents can be physiological, according to a study on heart rate and blood pressure (Neus, Ruddel, Schulte, & Von Eiff, 1983; Regecova & Kellcrova, 1995). Kasdorf and Klappach (1968) found that children in quieter school environments have fewer problems with high blood pressure, while children, especially boys, in city centers, have higher blood pressure. It is common knowledge that noise also causes stress (Ewans, Lercher, Meis, Ising, & Koler, 2001; Ising, Babisch, & Kruppa, 1999).

In studying the second level psychological effects, focus is on the effect of noise on attentiveness at work (Kyzar, 1977), memory (Hygge, 1993; Fosnaric & Planinsec, 2006), and speech perception. Research has noted that noise can cause numerous diseases. In the past, researchers believed that noise had a harmful effect only on the hearing organs, but today the effects have been shown to be much wider. Besides its harmful effect on the health of young people, noise indirectly affects their work. The greater the noise, the more intense its effect. Such noise disturbs both teachers and students. It especially disturbs normal conversation (Crook & Langdon, 1974; Ko, 1981; Sargent, Gidman, Humphreys, & Utley, 1980).

The effect of noise on the learning process has received considerable study both in schools and in laboratory settings. In contrast, relatively little research has been performed on how noise affects the work performance of early adolescents The present study examines the effects on specific school tasks.

METHOD

Participants

The study sample consisted of 20 boys from Slovenia; 13.5 years (SD [+ or -] 0.25). All adolescents had been previously informed of the nature of the study, and written consent obtained from their parents.

Measures

The study was performed in artificially created work conditions--in a "climate chamber" where we could determine and vary the parameters of the sound, lighting, and thermal environment. In this way we were able to combine noise parameters--L (two levels: optimal-normal and increased-maximal noise level) with other stresses such as lighting--E (three levels: low-minimal, optimal-normal, and increased-maximal along with climate (three levels: low-minimal, optimal-normal, and increased-maximal climate stresses expressed in effective temperature--ET) (McIntyre, 1980).

Monotonous work operations are connected with the perception of certain "rare" signals which are related to longer time periods and are a basis for research on attentiveness at work. In investigating the influence of noise on attentiveness we used the Signal Detection Theory (Baker, 1959; Macworth, 1957; Swets, Tanner, & Birdsall, 1961). Attentiveness can change quickly depending on numerous factors which we can measure with a specially designed computer program. This program was designed and adjusted for special test needs. The program calls for the adolescent to carefully monitor the trail of a "carriage" on a monitor throughout the study. The carriage moves across the monitor at different time intervals and at different speeds. Based on the positions of the cargo on the carriage, the adolescents had to determine which carriage would tip over as a result of an incorrect arrangement of the cargo by responding "Yes," and which carriage had a correct load by responding "No." The monitoring of these monotonous tasks was also conducted on a computer wherein the number of "Commissions" (false signals noted by the user) and the number of "Omissions" (correct signals) were determined. …