PROBLEM: Overhearing others' phone conversations is increasingly unavoidable. How does that affect our own cognitive abilities?
- Volunteering May Improve Cardiovascular Health
- People With Mental Illness Are Five Times More Likely to Be Murdered
- Job Burnout Associated With a 79% Increased Risk of Heart Disease
METHODOLOGY: About 150 college psychology students were given anagram tests. They weren't told that the study's purpose was to measure how distracted they became when others started talking during the test. Some of the students heard two-way conversations between people pretending to take the anagram test, while others heard one end of a cell phone conversation. After the test, researchers measured the students' self-rated level of distraction, how much of each conversation they correctly recalled, and how well they did on the anagram test.
RESULTS: Performance on the anagram test was similar whether students heard the two-way conversation or the cell phone conversation; this surprised the researchers, who had predicted performance would be worse when the students heard the one-way conversation. But the students did rate the cell conversation as being more noticeable, distracting, and annoying than the two-way conversation. Those who heard the cell conversation correctly remembered more words from it than those who heard the two-way conversation.