It is often argued that the effects of noise on a “complex ability” (e.g., reading, writing, calculation) can be explained by the impairment noise causes to some ability (e.g., working memory) upon which the complex ability depends. Because of this, tasks that measure “sub-component abilities” (i.e., those abilities upon which complex abilities depend) are often deemed sufficient in cognitive noise studies, even when the primary interest is to understand the effects of noise as they arise in applied settings (e.g., offices and schools). This approach can be called the “sub-component hypothesis of cognitive noise effects”. The present paper discusses two things that are troublesome for this approach: Difficulties with interpretation and generalizability. A complete understanding of the effects of noise on complex abilities requires studying the complex ability itself. Cognitive noise researches must, therefore, employ tasks that mimic the tasks that are actually carried out in the applied setting to which the results are intended to be generalized. Tasks that measure “subcomponent abilities” may be complementary, but should not be given priority in applied cognitive research.
Sörqvist, P. (2015). On interpretation and task selection: The sub-component hypothesis of cognitive noise effects. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(JAN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01598