Scientists at Washington University found that students scored up to 25 percent less on tests after being exposed to ringing mobile phones.
The worst results were posted after hearing a song they knew and liked.
“Many of us consider a mobile phone ringing in a public place to be an annoying disruption, but this study confirms that these nuisance noises also have real-life impacts,” lead author Jill Shelton said. “These seemingly innocuous events are not only a distraction, but they have a real influence on learning.”
The study included an experiment in which Shelton posed as a student seated in the middle of a crowded undergraduate psychology lecture at Louisiana State University and allowed a mobile phone in her handbag to continue ringing loudly for about 30 seconds.
Students exposed to a briefly ringing cell phone scored 25 percent worse on a test of material presented before the distraction.
Students tested later scored about 25 percent worse for recall of course content presented during the distraction, even though the same information was covered by the professor just prior to the phone ring and projected as text in a slide show shown throughout the distraction.
Students scored even worse when Shelton added to the disturbance by frantically searching her handbag as if attempting to find and silence her device. The study raises concerns for people who attempt to concentrate while being bombarded by beeps and buzzes from incoming email or text messages. Ã¢â‚¬â€Guardian