The role of working memory capacity in auditory distraction
Sammanfattning: The basis of individual differences in susceptibility to auditory distraction has been a research field largely ignored. The current work presents four studies demonstrating that individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC) are related to the magnitude of auditory distraction. The first three reports showed that high WMC attenuates the effects of speech and aircraft noise on reading comprehension and prose memory. The fourth report showed that high WMC attenuates the power of unexpected sound stimulation to capture our attention, but not the interference from changing-state sound streams to seriation processes.
Furthermore, the first and the second report showed that the capacity to exclude new, potentially relevant but ultimately irrelevant, materials from memory underlies the relationship between WMC and the effects of speech on reading comprehension/prose memory. Based on these results, a new perspective of WMC called the "sub-process view" was developed, according to which WMC is a compound of functionally distinct subprocesses: some of which are related to auditory distraction. Ten years ago it was not at all clear if cognitive-control processes play a role in auditory distraction, but the studies reported in this thesis strongly suggest that cognitive-control - as reflected in WMC -constitutes a fundamental basis of individual differences in susceptibility to auditory distraction.
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