P09Session 1 (Thursday 12 January 2023, 15:30-17:30)Sentence comprehension in classroom chatter noise: Listening effort, motivation, and role of individual differences
Background: Comprehending the speaker’s message when people around us are chatting is a challenging task, that school-age children face on a daily basis. Even though the listening condition is generally the same for a whole class, differences in individual reactions to noise and performance in the task at hand can be observed that might depend on a variety of personal factors and their specific interactions with the cognitive load imposed by the listening condition itself. This study was designed to explore how children’s differences in linguistic and cognitive capacities and noise sensitivity relate to performance, listening effort, and motivation in a sentence comprehension task presented in actual classrooms in the presence of chatter noise.
Methods: A total of 104 children (8 to 10 years old) completed tests in quiet to assess their literacy and cognitive (inhibitory control) skills, and noise sensitivity, as well as a sentence comprehension task in an “easy” and a “hard” listening condition (signal-to-noise ratio, SNR, equal to +9 and +1 dB respectively). Background noise was intelligible – yet task-irrelevant – speech coming from different directions around the listener. Outcome measures included accuracy and response times (a behavioral measure of effort) in the task, self-rated effort, and motivation.
Results: Results showed different patterns across the outcome measures. In particular, results suggest that baseline literacy skills may have an influence on the children’s motivation in completing the task (with more proficient students taking advantage of better listening conditions), while noise sensitivity may play a greater role in the self-ratings of listening effort. Furthermore, both behavioral and self-rated measures of effort may be affected by children’s inhibitory control.
Conclusions: The results of the study suggest that behavioral measures/subjective ratings of effort supplement evaluations of performance, providing tools to disclose the role of individual differences in complex listening tasks. Additionally, the study shows that children’s differences in literacy and cognitive skills, and noise sensitivity contribute in various ways depending on the listening condition. The latter finding has practical implications for the acoustic design of classrooms, which should move from the traditional environment-centered approach to a more child-centered perspective, including individual characteristics as mediating factors, with the final goal to create inclusive learning spaces.