The effect of noise on attention and performance in reading and writing tasks

Codas. 2019 Sep 2;31(4):e20170241. doi: 10.1590/2317-1782/20182017241.


Purpose: This study investigated the effects of two levels of noise on the performance of young students of three educational levels and tested their ability to maintain attentional focus in reading and writing tasks.

Methods: 162 school children in the third, fourth and fifth grades were placed in three groups according to their educational level: Control Group (CG), Experimental Group A (GEA) and Experimental Group B (GEB). All groups were submitted to a Sustained Attention Test, Reading Assessment and Isolated Words Test and Writing Dictation Sub-test (part of the International Dyslexia Test). The GEA and GEB performed the tests in a noisy environment: 20dB and 40dB, respectively. The CG was assessed in the usual school environmental noise at the same time of the day. The data was submitted to an ANOVA, the Kruskal-Wallis test and Spearman correlation test.

Results: The higher the score on the Sustained Attention Test, the shorter the time spent reading and fewer errors in the dictation task. There were no differences across the three grades within the GEA (lower levels of noise) with regard to the effect of noise on attention and in the reading and writing task performance. The higher levels of noise for the GEB, however, decreased the attention levels, therefore increasing mistakes on the dictation test. Comparing the performance across educational levels on the reading tasks, the fourth grade presented decreased reading time, while the third and fifth grades spent more time reading.

Conclusion: Auditory interference can influence the ability to focus attention as well as worsen performance in reading and writing tasks at more intense noise levels.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Noise*
  • Reading*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Students
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Writing*