The Cell-phone Conversation Theory

Emberson et al. (2010) investigates the theory that overheard cell-phone conversations are irritating. Furthermore, this study argues that the cognitive demands of overhearing a cell-phone conversation is different from overhearing other types of speech. The hypothesis for this study states that the “relative unpredictability of a haldalogue will draw on limited attentional resources, resulting in poorer performance in concurrent tasks” (p. 1384). For methodology, 24 undergraduates were recruited to the study and instructed to complete two different tasks. The first task involved tracking a moving dot with the computer mouse and the second task involved responding to letters presented on the computer screen. Each trial began with a fixation cross presented from 600 to 1000 milliseconds. Target letters were presented on 35% of the trials. Participants were given 1 second to respond. False alarms were followed by a red “X”  presented in the center of the screen. For the second experiment, 17 additional participants were recruited. All procedures were similar to the first experiment with one exception, which is that all sound files were low-pass filtered such “that only the fundamental frequency of the speech audible” (p. 1387). The results of the study showed that performance in the silent condition was significantly different from performance in the halfalogue condition, but not different from performance in the dialogue and monologue conditions. Also, overhearing halfalogue affected performance compared with baseline and nonlinguistic auditory cues had an effect on visual attention after their onset. There was a significant increase in tracking error after the onset of halfalogue speech, which shows an instance of association. In addition, the behavioral deficits that resulted from overheard halfalogue were directly related to the relative unpredictability of information in halfalogue speech. However, the behavioral deficits were not related to the difference in acoustics across the speech conditions, which shows an instance of dissociation. The concept of process is expressed during the choice reaction time task, and the concept of representation is implied in conversational speech onset (Fig 2B). 

Work Cited

Emberson, L. L., Lupyan, G., Goldstein, M. H., & Spivey, M. J. (2010). Overheard Cell-Phone Conversations. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1383–1388. doi: 10.1177/0956797610382126

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