Be quiet! Effects of competing speakers and individual characteristics on listening comprehension for primary school students

Chiara Visentin, Matteo Pellegatti, Maria Garraffa, Alberto Di Domenico, Nicola Prodi

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Students learn in noisy classrooms, where the main sources of noise are their own voices. In this sound environment, students are not equally at risk from background noise interference during lessons, due to the moderation effect of the individual characteristics on the listening conditions. This study investigates the effect of the number of competing speakers on listening comprehension and whether this is modulated by selective attention skills, working memory, and noise sensitivity. Seventy-one primary school students aged 10 to 13 years completed a sentence comprehension task in three listening conditions: quiet, two competing speakers, and four competing speakers. Outcome measures were accuracy, listening effort (response times and self-reported), motivation, and confidence in completing the task. Individual characteristics were assessed in quiet. Results showed that the number of competing speakers has no direct effects on the task, whilst the individual characteristics were found to moderate the effect of the listening conditions. Selective attention moderated the effects on accuracy and response times, working memory on motivation, and noise sensitivity on both perceived effort and confidence. Students with low cognitive abilities and high noise sensitivity were found to be particularly at risk in the condition with two competing speakers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4822
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2023

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