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Influence of background noise on the performance in the odor sensitivity task: effects of noise type and extraversion

Abstract

Recent research demonstrated that background noise relative to silence impaired subjects’ performance in a cognitively driven odor discrimination test. The current study aimed to investigate whether the background noise can also modulate performance in an odor sensitivity task that is less cognitively loaded. Previous studies have shown that the effect of background noise on task performance can be different in relation to degree of extraversion and/or type of noise. Accordingly, we wanted to examine whether the influence of background noise on the odor sensitivity task can be altered as a function of the type of background noise (i.e., nonverbal vs. verbal noise) and the degree of extraversion (i.e., introvert vs. extrovert group). Subjects were asked to conduct an odor sensitivity task in the presence of either nonverbal noise (e.g., party sound) or verbal noise (e.g., audio book), or silence. Overall, the subjects’ mean performance in the odor sensitivity task was not significantly different across three auditory conditions. However, with regard to the odor sensitivity task, a significant interaction emerged between the type of background noise and the degree of extraversion. Specifically, verbal noise relative to silence significantly impaired or improved the performance of the odor sensitivity task in the introvert or extrovert group, respectively; the differential effect of introversion/extraversion was not observed in the nonverbal noise-induced task performance. In conclusion, our findings provide new empirical evidence that type of background noise and degree of extraversion play an important role in modulating the effect of background noise on subjects’ performance in an odor sensitivity task.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a grant from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique to T.H. (European associated laboratory; EAL 549, CNRS-TUD) and was partly supported by a start-up fund from University of Arkansas to H.-S.S. In addition, all authors appreciate Dr. Willibald Ruch and Ms. Claudia Harzer (Department of Psychology, University of Zurich) for providing their EPQ-RK.

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Correspondence to Thomas Hummel.

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Seo, HS., Hähner, A., Gudziol, V. et al. Influence of background noise on the performance in the odor sensitivity task: effects of noise type and extraversion. Exp Brain Res 222, 89–97 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-012-3222-5

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Keywords

  • Auditory–olfactory integration
  • Background noise
  • Eysenck Personality Questionnaire
  • Introversion/extraversion
  • Odor sensitivity task
  • Verbal noise