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Researchers have noticed some trends in the relationship between academic performance and noise. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t sound good.

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The first 1,000 people to click the link in the description can get a free trial of Skillshare’s Premium Membership. [♪ INTRO]. Learning something new takes a lot of concentration.

And it’s hard to perform well academically when noises get in the way. There have been a lot of studies on how we study and what happens to our brains when we’re in a loud environment. And while everyone is different, researchers have noticed some trends in the relationship between academic performance and noise.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t sound good. Noise can come from a lot of things. When you’re sitting in a classroom, there could be external noise from traffic, trains, planes, or construction.

And there could be internal noise from the sounds that other students are making in the classroom. These can all be distracting for a student trying to take in new information. Luckily for researchers, students frequently take lots of tests.

So there’s an easy way to assess the impact of noise on academic performance. By poring through test scores from schools in areas under flight paths or on busy roads, scientists found that students in noisier environments do worse on average on their standardized tests than their peers in quieter neighborhoods. It could be because students just can’t hear what the teacher is saying at the front of the room.

But another factor is distraction. When something whooshes by and makes a loud noise, it can break your concentration on a test or a teacher’s instructions. Some students are naturally more affected by sounds than others.

For example, some people with ADHD are more prone to inattention or hyperactivity. These noises could pull their attention away from the lesson more than their peers. So it really depends on the individual person.

But in general, this noise effect was seen across students in a school with lots of road traffic noise. Researchers also found that students trying to learn around aircraft noise have worse long term memory and reading ability on average. Even the other students talking to each other can decrease someone’s ability to process numbers, letters, and words.

So noise can distract students in a bunch of different ways. But another factor that could be impacting students’ grades is a phenomenon called learned helplessness. This is what happens when you try to pay attention and listen to the teacher, but can’t hear what they’re saying no matter how hard you try.

Because the outcome is the same whether you try or not, and there’s not much you can do to change it, some people stop trying. A 1980 study in the journal American Psychologist showed this effect through puzzle solving. The researchers gave children from noisy schools and quiet schools the same puzzle to complete within four minutes. 98% of the children from quiet schools finished the puzzle within the timeframe of the experiment.

But only 85% of the children from the noisy schools finished the puzzle. It’s not that they weren’t as smart as the other children. Some of them gave up before the four minutes passed.

So what’s going on here? This isn’t necessarily a problem with the American testing system because similar results have been reported in England, Wales, and Canada. And these studies were also corrected for income, language, disability, and socialization, so those factors can’t explain the results alone either.

Instead, it seems like the children felt less motivated to try and finish the puzzles because they’d learned over time that the distracting noise was outside of their control. So their efforts to block out the noise and solve the puzzle might not work. And it also seems like ignoring noises might be a life skill that you develop over time.

When a noise first starts, like the sound of the first train car passing, it’s new and grabs your attention. But as the train cars keep passing by, the sound stays pretty much the same over time. People who respond to the first car but slowly stop noticing the sounds of the following cars have habituated to the noise.

You start learning how to habituate to noises in the womb. A fetus can distinguish between new and sustained sounds. And by the time you become a young kid, you’re still mastering habituation.

That’s probably because the parts of your brain that process auditory information and attention are still developing. So younger children might be more affected by general background noises that older children are more likely to habituate to. The flip side of that is that older children are more affected by short bursts of sound, like a motorcycle driving by the classroom.

And for many people, once you reach adulthood, your brain processes auditory information very differently than when you were a child. One study measured brain responses to the sound of a passing train in adults and children. The study found that adult brains had a high response to the first car and then habituated.

The children’s brains, on the other hand, had a continued high reaction to all of the following cars. So if you find it hard to learn in school because of noises, it might get better when you get older. And again, everyone is different.

So if you find these noises especially distracting, there might be other strategies or interventions that could help you reach your potential in school. On the whole, a student’s learning environment can have a big impact on their studies. And learning more about how these distractions affect us is the first step toward addressing them.

Thank you for listening to this video! If you enjoy learning new things, you might enjoy Skillshare! Skillshare is an online learning community that offers membership with meaning and tons of classes.

Like their class on how to manage your attention, called “Productivity

Today:. Managing Attention in the Digital Age - Learn with Todoist.” Skillshare is curated specifically for learning, meaning there are no ads, and they’re always launching new premium classes, so you can stay focused and follow wherever your creativity takes you. And the first 1,000 people to click the link in the description will get a one month free trial of Premium Membership. Thanks again for watching, and thanks again to Skillshare for sponsoring this episode of SciShow Psych. [♪ OUTRO].