Research

White noise tunes into learning potential

Listening to white noise can increase your ability to learn new words, a study by The University of Queensland has revealed.

UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Dr Anthony Angwin said the study was the first to show the effect listening to white noise could have on word learning performance.

“While it’s often thought that you should minimise noise when you’re learning or processing information, emerging research suggests some types of auditory noise, such as white noise, have the potential to improve performance on some cognitive tasks,” Dr Angwin said.

“This study focused on whether white noise could improve the learning and language processing ability of healthy adults.

“We found participants who listened to white noise could recall the words they had learned more accurately than people who did the language learning task in silence.

“These findings suggest that white noise has the capacity to enhance word learning and may have the capacity to support other forms of learning for some people.”

The study involved eighty healthy adults who were asked to learn names for different alien pictures.

During learning, each alien and their associated name were presented on a computer screen a number of times.

Participants completed five of these learning phases, and after each phase they were presented with an alien picture one at a time and asked to recall the correct name by typing it on the computer keyboard.

Half of the participants listened to white noise during the learning phases, and half completed the learning in silence.

Recall of the learned words was performed in silence by both groups.

The researchers hope the findings will prompt further research on how white noise can be used to improve cognitive performance, and how it might be tailored to maximise performance for individual people.

“Previous research suggests the presence of white noise may make you focus more on the information you need to process,” Dr Angwin said.

“So we are now commencing further research with brain imaging techniques to identify how white noise alters brain function during language learning.

“Once we develop a better understanding of the effects of white noise on healthy adults, we would like to apply this knowledge to do further studies with people with learning or language difficulties to see if white noise improves their learning performance.”

The Australian Research Council funded study was published in Scientific Reports.

Source: UQ

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