The most popular extraneous variable

So often students suggest that noise could be an important extraneous variable. But is it? This is one of my favourite ‘old time’ studies (reported in my Research Methods book):

H.B. Hovey set out to demonstrate the willingness of participants to help an experimenter. He gave college students and intelligence test and told them that there would be distractions and that they were to do their best regardless

The distractactions were “7 bells, 5 buzzers; a 5500-watt spotlight; a 90,000 volt rotary spark gap; two adjustable organ pipes and three metal whistles, 14, 24 and 26 in. long; a 55-pound circular saw (36 in. in diameter) mounted on a wooden frame; a mounted camera operated by a well known photographer; and … four students performing stunts” (p. 586-587).

Hovey found that participants did not differ in their distractability and that performance on the mental test was not affected when compared with a matched control group who did the test with no distraction.

I’d be interested in hearing from any students who tested this.


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One Comment

  1. Psych n Stats Tutor November 3, 2014 at 1:52 am #

    I haven’t read his study and am wondering at the sample numbers. Also possible confounds for his study, such as the setting; participant jobs at the time; and the task/s they were doing when buzzing etc trying to distract.

    I think air traffic controller and anesthesia tech research using simulations relying on sound would provide insights. As they rely on sounds distraction to get attention and initiate prospective memory processes.

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