Sound or Knowledge?

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By Molly and Christiaan Peters

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Abstract

The purpose of our experiment was to find out whether or not a person a specific personality comprehends a text better or worse depending on how loud it is in the area they are in. We wanted to (because we are both very different in personalities) to know if we could focus better and why in different sound levels. We investigated sound and personalities and if the sound levels of the room make it easier or harder for someone to concentrate. We decided to do a series of tests to find out. We changed the level of sound three times: no background/white noise, a steady level of background/white noise, and extremely loud and obnoxious background/white noise. Our test subject would read from a book and depending on how far and how much information they got is how we graded them. The introvert we tested (Molly) did better with no noise while the extrovert we tested (Christiaan) did better with a steady level of noise. We believe that this was an important project/experiment because it helped us figure out the better work environments for introverts and extroverts. Especially now, in this time of COVID19 and homeschooling we were able to use this information for where we could set up our desks where we do school so that we can work better (and hopefully get better grades). [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyT2FuZEklMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Object and Inquiry

In this experiment, we set out to find if different levels of background noise will affect how well a person can concentrate based on their personality type, whether or not they are an introvert or an extrovert. The object of this experiment is the different levels of background noise and our inquiry is whether or not it will affect how well a certain personality type will concentrate. [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyVG9ySCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRmElM0U=[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][vc_column_text]

Hypothesis

If the level of background noise affects how well a person with a certain personality can concentrate, then it is likely that that person, depending on their personality, will comprehend less of the information than without background noise because the neurons in your brain that receive information are trying to focus on two separate things which ends up with the person getting distracted. [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyUldVJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGYSUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Research Write Up

For this project, we decided to list a number of questions that are related to our main question and the topic of our science fair project. How are memories saved? What are the effects of background white noise on memory? What are different ways to help you better focus on a task? And, the main question, how does background noise affect our concentration?
Memories are formed in a peculiar way. Two neurons give information through a synapse, as a person processes an occurrence in time or an event. This interaction between the chemicals triggers a surge, telling nearby neurons to fire which creates a connection. Some of the connections will vary in strength; the weaker the connection is, the shorter you will store the memory and the stronger the connection is the longer you will have the memory. These connections, or memories, will remain with the neurons. The hippocampus holds most of a person’s memory, but other parts of the brain can hold synapses capable of keeping long term memories too. The hippocampus plays an important role. It helps a person to learn new information, storing short-term memories and long-term memories, and forming special memories.1
Memories are stored all around the brain, in different structures, in connections between neurons. They can even depend on one molecule for the stability of long-term memories. In the prefrontal lobe, a highly developed area of the brain, short-term memories are saved. Short-term memories are formed through something called rehearsal. It’s the process where information is kept for short-term memory by mentally repeating it. The average storage time for short term memory is ten to twenty seconds. The hippocampus solidifies the connections that form the memories, but the memory is dependent on the solidity the connections have between the individual brain cells.2
Background white noise can either distract a person and cause their concentration to break or help a person and improve how well they work. But, the latter is very rare. People with attention problems, e.g. attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are oftentimes more vulnerable to distractions than normal control children. Cognitive processing is easily disrupted by conflicting environmental incentive which distracts attention from tasks. Under certain circumstances, children with attention problems benefit from the background or irrelevant noise presented at the time with a select task, rather than being distracted by the noise.3
Low-level background noise can often affect how well a person can concentrate. Background noise also affects people’s health by increasing common stress levels and irritating stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, abscess, and migraine headaches, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Stress resulting from background noise or white noise can cause the release of cortisol, a hormone that helps reinstate homeostasis into the body after a bad experience. Too much of this hormone will damage the function of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex helps to regulate necessary and executive functions, e.g. planning, reasoning, and impulse control. Interrupting the prefrontal cortex may damage your capacity to think clearly and to keep information.4How well a person can focus is also, somewhat, dependent on their personality. Usually, introverts work better with no noise or a quiet noise with a steady rhythm, while extroverts can work with loud noises in the background.5 (We will be testing ourselves to see how accurate this is. One of us is an introvert and the other is an extrovert.)
To help keep focus on the task at hand a person must limit any distractions and keep all attention on that task, right? Wrong, it is really quite the opposite. Concentration requires a system of brain sections as well as the frontal cortex, which is responsible for withstanding distractions and managing our natural instinct to do something fun. If you zone out every once in a while, it relaxes those muscles so once you get back to your task it will be easier to focus. But, staying focused on something hard requires a lot of willpower. Another way to keep focused is to boost your reserves of willpower; a way to do that is to have a good laugh. One theory called the Load Theory says that if you limit how much information from the outside our brains’ attention system kicks in to decide what to focus on. The key is to have just enough work to do that your brain doesn’t have to look elsewhere for incentive. Studies have shown that we can’t concentrate for longer than ninety minutes before needing to take a fifteen-minute break. Other studies have shown that even a micro-break of only a couple of seconds will work if it is a total distraction. Joe DeGutis and Mike Esterman found that the most successful course of action was to focus for a long time and then take a break before continuing. The more people know about the brain the clearer it is to see that stress is the nemesis of concentration.6 
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Tools and Materials

  • Two People (Independent)
  • Room/Living Environment (Controlled)
  • Educational Book (Dependent)
  • Music
  • Ears
  • Brain
  • Talking/Loud/Obnoxious People
  • Couch/Chair
  • Table
  • Pencil /Pen
  • Notebook/Journal
  • Laptop
  • Binder
  • Middle School Science Fair Packet

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Procedure and Data

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Journal

2-10-20
We got Molly’s computer and opened a word document to start writing the prior knowledge section of the research portion of the project. We forgot what the measurement of sound is called so we asked my sister and she told me “decibel.” Then, once we finished, we saved our work and closed the tab.
2-13-20
We got my computer, opened Google Chrome, and looked up questions like, “How are memories saved?” and “Does background noise affect how well a person can learn?” and “What are different ways you could focus on your task at hand?” to help get some insight on our science fair project. (Answers will be in the research section of the presentation.”
2-28-20
We found 1 new source in science class for the question “How does background noise affect our concentration?” It said that it depends on your personality and we thought that was very interesting so we decided to base our experiment on that.
2-29-20
We found the rest of the sources and wrote down the information we thought was to know in a Word document.
3-1-20
Today we worked on the research write up. We finished it and made sure to sight all of our sources. One of the sources didn’t have the author or the date it was published.
3-3-20
We sat down and wrote our tools and materials. We also started writing down our Hypothesis/Thesis section.
3-4-20
We finished Hypothesis/Thesis.
3-5-20
We started writing our action plan for when to do the experiment.
3-7-20
We finished writing our action plan in a Word document and saved it. then, we put the word document in a folder we made labeled Science Fair.
3-9-20
We did Christiaan’s experiment. First, we did it with a really loud environment. Then, we did it with a regular household noise level. And finally, we did it with complete silence. Molly asked Christiaan the questions we came up with to tell how much he comprehended.
3-11-20
We did the experiment with Molly. We did it first with extremely loud and obnoxious sounds. Second, with light background noise and third with complete silence. After the tests we asked Molly the questions we came up with and were not surprised by the results. Molly did best in complete silence because there was nothing there to distract her.
3-12-20
We continued working on the procedure and data.
3-13-20
Molly was sick so we had to email the action plan to our teacher. We kept working on the procedure and data.
3-14-20
Molly was sick so we didn’t do anything.
3-15-20
We were worried that we would fall behind schedule, so we got the procedure and data portion done and started working on Results and Conclusions.
3-17-20
We finished our results and conclusion.
3-18-20
We opened a new Word Document titled Insights and Reflections and wrote our insights and reflections in it. Molly started and finished before Christiaan because we was currently doing a live seminar for Literature class. After he finished the seminar, he wrote his insights and reflections.
3-20-20
We opened a new Word document and titles Abstract. Then, we wrote our abstract section for the report.
4-19-20
We came up with a name for our experiment and made a cover picture for the webpage.
4-20-20
We finished up everything and made some touch-ups on the things that we thought needed them. 
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Procedure

Before you start the actual experiment you will need to find six different pages in an informational book. Then, come up with three questions based on the information on that page and find three songs that are three minutes or longer to play during the experiment.


Experiment Procedure

  1. Set a timer for three minutes. Play the three songs at the same time and set it to as loud as your device can go. Tell everyone in the building you are in to have very heated conversations or have them yell at each other.
  2. Start the timer, the music, and the yelling/talking and have the first person (the extrovert) read one of the pages you’ve assigned.
  3. After the three minutes are up, take the book away and ask them the questions you set up for that page. Make sure to copy down their answer word for word.
  4. For the second part of the first test you will have everyone have normal conversations for the length of three minutes. Have the first person (the extrovert) read the second page you assigned.
  5. Start the timer and have everyone begin their conversations.
  6. After the three minutes are up, take the book away and ask them the questions you set up for that page. Make sure to copy down each answer word for word.
  7. For the third part of the first test you will have everyone make no sound at all. Have the first person (the extrovert) read the third page you assigned.
  8. Start the timer and make sure no one is saying or doing anything.
  9. After the three minutes are up, take the book away and ask them the question you set up for that page. Make sure to copy down their answer word for word.
  10. At the end of the test ask the person you are testing which section of the test (the first, second, or third) was the hardest to concentrate and which one was the easiest to concentrate.
    Follow steps 1-10 for the second test. This test should be for your second person (the introvert). 

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Data and Analysis

We came up with a list of three questions for each of the pages we assigned. Below, are the answers of Christiaan and Molly after they read the assigned text. After they went through all of the tests, we asked them which test seemed the hardest and which test seemed the easiest. Each answer is quoted word for word.
Experiment 1: Christiaan (Extrovert)
Page 176 (1)

  1. “I don’t remember.”
  2. “Uhhh?”
  3. “They eat bugs and worms and stuff.”

Page 59 (2)

  1. “They are dogs and doggies of prey. Hyenas are dogs that don’t look hostile but are. Aardwolves are small wolves that live in Africa.”
  2. “Spotted hyenas, striped hyenas, and aardwolves.”
  3. “That there was such a thing as aardwolves.”

Page 162 (3)

  1. “Lizards, geckos, and legless lizards. A gecko is a reptile with small little feet. A skink is a big lizard. A monitor is what you hook up to a computer so you can see the image.”
  2. “Komodo dragons, Gila monsters, cleopatra. *cough couch*”
  3. “That there are legless lizards that aren’t snakes.”

What was the hardest?
“The first one.”
What was the easiest?
“The second one.”

Experiment 2: Molly (Introvert)
Page 237 (1)

  1. “Umm… They are sea creatures that live in water.”
  2. “There are sea urchins and starfish.”
  3. “It said something about eating itself. I think. Maybe not, actually.”

Page 203 (2)

  1. “They are small-ish fish that are commonly referred to as baitfish. They live from about 5 years to 25 years and they swim in big groups.”
  2. “There’s the European Anchovy which live in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. There’s the Atlantic Herring, which I am guessing lives in the Atlantic as well because of its name. Yeah, that’s really all I remember.”
  3. “They live for a really long time.”

Page 118 (3)

  1. “They are diving birds. Because their legs are so short and are closer to the tail they can’t balance on land which causes them to have trouble walking. They can dive 250 ft below water and can live for 20 to 30 years.”
  2. “There’s the common loon which makes flute-like noises called wails. The Autra-la-la-la-blah-blah-blah grebe which, during breading season, have brightly colored feathers and they carry their chicks on their backs. And the red-throated look which has a red throat, obviously, it is the only one that can take off from water and land.”
  1. “They have solid bones to help them dive farther.”

Which was the hardest?
“Definitely the first one. I couldn’t really concentrate on the task at hand because everyone around me was yelling.”
Which was the easiest?
“The third one. There was nothing to distract me so I could focus all of my attention on the text.”[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyUmFuZEMlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Results and Conclusion

After the experiment, the data and our experiment led us to determine that background noise does affect how well a person can concentrate depending on how loud it is. According to Online School Center, the personality of a person, whether they’re an introvert or an extrovert, will do better in different environments. In our hypothesis we said that it will affect the people the same way even if they have different personality types, but our experiment proved us wrong. The extrovert in our experiment did better in the second test, which was a normal household sound level while the introvert did better in complete silence. The Online School Center says that extroverts are better at controlling or adapting to their environments to make it fit their own preference while the introvert will be too distracted by all of the chaos happening around them that they can’t focus on what they need to get done.  [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIySWFuZFIlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Insights and Reflections

Molly:
The results of this experiment have led me to wonder about why, if this is really the case, the personality affects a person’s comprehending abilities. Why, exactly, would the person’s personality affect how well they do in a certain environment? I think that it is, partly, based on the personality because when we tested Christiaan, he did best when there was a steady rhythm of noise, or the regular level of sound in a family’s house while I, Molly, did better when there was no sound and nothing distracting around me to throw off my concentration. I think this experiment could have gone better if we were able to test more people.
Christiaan:
I think that the project is successful. But my one concern is how I did better in the medium noise test than the zero-noise test and Molly did better on the last one. I think that I could have done better on them and that I should have done it slower and Molly did better on the last one than I did so maybe that says something about our attention. I did a part of the research write up about how the noise level in classrooms and maybe she did better because her class is quieter, and my class is like a zoo. 
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Bibliography

Ashford, Molika. “How Are Memories Stored in the Brain?” Live Science. August 31, 2010. https://www.livescience.com/32798-how-are-memories-stored-in-the-brain.html
Live Science is a part of Future US Inc. and international media group and the leading digital publisher. Molika Ashford has written multiple articles about biology and psychology.
“Can Background Noise Actually Help You Study Better?” Online Schools Center. https://www.onlineschoolscenter.com/can-background-noise-actually-help-you-study-better/
Online School Centers is a website that helps students find something that they are interested in and helps them to find an online course that moves them along and posts articles about different things.
Rugg, Michael. Andrews, Mark A. W. “How Does Background Noise Affect Our Concentration.” Scientific American. January 1, 2010. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ask-the-brains-background-noise/
Michael Rugg is the director of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California and Mark A. W. Andrews is the director and professor of psychology at Lake Earie College of Osteopathic Medicine at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA.
Söderlund, Göran BW. Sikström, Sverker. Loftesnes, Jan M. Sonuga-Barke, Edmund J. “The Effects of Background White Noise on Memory Performance in Inattentive School Children.” BMC. September 29, 2010. https://behavioralandbrainfunctions.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-9081-6-55
These people conducted their own experiment and use their results.
Williams, Caroline. “Five Ways Science Can Improve Your Focus.” BBC. September 24, 2017. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20170925-the-surprising-tricks-to-help-you-focus-at-work
BBC is the British Broadcasting Corporation and they have shows and a website and they post articles and other informational things. 
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