Friday, 11 June 2010

Will the noise of the vuvuzela horn affect the footballers’ concentration?

An unusual aspect of the World Cup is the debate surrounding the vuvuzela horn, used by supporters to show their appreciation. It makes a sound like a large bluebottle fly trapped in a jam jar, multiplied many times.

Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso and the Netherlands coach Bert van Marjijk obviously thought it might affect players’ concentration, and ability to communicate with each other, and called for a ban. But this was rejected by FIFA president Sepp Blatter who said, “We should not try to Europeanise the World Cup.”

How far are players, concentrating on their game, affected by external noise anyway? There is considerable evidence to suggest that the sort of ability to concentrate that will take a player to the top of his or her game, will over-ride background noise. They literally don't hear the noise while they're in 'the zone'.

Let’s hope so.

There is also evidence to show that those for whom concentration is difficult, and this includes research done with children with attention deficity hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can benefit from background music, or white noise– a sound containing a blend of all the audible frequencies distributed equally over the range of the frequency band – to counteract or mask other distractions and noises.

It may be that the vuvuzela horn’s noise falls into this white noise category – but it’s very loud!

And irrespective of how loud it is to the players, listening to the TV commentators on the World Cup’s opening match was difficult given the level of background noise from the horn.

No doubt I will get used to it, and I imagine the players will, too – but for the first time, and for this reason alone, I’m quite glad I’m not there in person!

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