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NLR in 2012 INTERVIEWS
Noise abatement

“For the past year and a half, I've been working on my PhD project on noise annoyance from air traffic. My aim is to identify factors that influence the amount of annoyance from aircraft flying overhead. I am doing part of this study in the Virtual Community Noise Simulator (VCNS), together with another PhD candidate. In the VCNS, we simulate the experience of noise from overhead aircraft in a virtual environment. NLR uses this simulator to study the factors that cause noise annoyance. Earlier research has shown that acoustic factors can account for only one-third of the causes of noise pollution. That is why I focus mainly – but not exclusively – on the impact of non-acoustic factors on the annoyance. Among these factors are: sensitivity to noise, people's attitude towards air traffic, coping behaviour, communication with the airport and ministries, anxiety, and so on.

By concentrating on each of these factors in turn, I hope to get a clearer picture of how annoyance arises and what can be done outside the laboratory to constrain it. I believe the advantage of this approach is that it could be possible to reduce noise nuisance without having to reduce the number of flight movements. The ultimate goal of my research is that people learn to deal with noise annoyance. My results may give rise to good advice for Schiphol Amsterdam Airport and ministries. I am now working on some tests about attitudes towards aircraft noise. These seem to reveal, among other things, that people with a negative attitude towards traffic in general are more likely to experience annoyance from aircraft noise than people with a more positive attitude. That may seem obvious, but when you let 'negative' people hear sound samples that have the same characteristics as aircraft noise, the differences between people with positive attitudes compared to negative attitudes are reduced. The sound they are exposed to has the same volume and pitch as aircraft noise, but is made unrecognisable. It may be the case that the point is not so much the sound itself, but the significance given to the noise ('oh no, not another one!'). In short, if you could change people's attitude, then I believe there might also be fewer complaints.

As a psychologist, it took me some time to settle in among the technologists. Partly because 80% of psychology students are women, whereas the ratio here is roughly the opposite. Now that I'm better acquainted with my colleagues, I realise just how sympathetic they are. You see that when someone gets married or a child is born, for instance. It's a close-knit club.

I used to be a teacher before I started this research project. I really enjoyed that, but after teaching the same course ten times, you start to get tired of explaining the same stuff over and over again. In this job, it's up to me to decide what direction the research should take in order to progress. I really enjoy the analytical side of the job. You get an idea, you read up on it and you work out a plan. You feed all that into a data sheet and then, at the press of a button, you see whether your theory adds up or not. The results can be a slap in the face, but it's this part of my work that gives me my greatest thrill.”


Watch the interview



KIM WHITE

 

PhD-STUDENT AT THE COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT OF THE VU UNIVERSITY AMSTERDAM.

 

The analytical part of my job gives me the greatest kick, even though the research results can be a slap in the face.
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