The paper presents research that answers three main questions: (1) Do preconceptions held about the constituent materials of an environmental noise barrier affect how people perceive the barrier will perform at attenuating noise? (2) Does aesthetic preference influence the perception of how a barrier will perform? (3) Are barriers, which are deemed more aesthetically pleasing, more likely to be perceived as better noise attenuators? In a virtual reality setting with film to improve the contextual realism of the intersensory interaction test, participants were required to compare the perceived effectiveness of five standard 'in-situ' noise barriers, including concrete, timber, metal, transparent acrylic and a vegetative screen. The audio stimulus was held at a constant sound pressure level (SPL), whilst the visual stimulus changed, as the influential factor. As the noise levels projected during the study were held constant, it was possible to attribute the participants' perception of noise attenuation by the barriers, to preconceptions of how the varying barrier material would attenuate noise. There was also an inverse correlation between aesthetics and perception of how a noise barrier would perform. The transparent and deciduous vegetation barriers, judged most aesthetically pleasing, were judged as the least effective at attenuating noise. (c) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved
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