Exposure to noise in everyday urban life is considered to be an environmental stressor. A specific outcome of reactions to environmental stress is a fast pace of life that also includes a faster pedestrian walking speed. The present study examined the effect of listening to annoying acoustical stimuli (traffic noise) compared with relaxation sounds (forest birdsong) on walking speed in a real outdoor urban environment. The participants (N
= 83) walked along an urban route of 1.8 km. They listened to either traffic noise or forest birdsong, or they walked without listening to any acoustical stimuli in the control condition. The results showed that participants listening to traffic noise walked significantly faster on the route than both the participants listening to forest birdsong sounds and the participants in the control condition. Participants who listened to forest birdsong walked slightly slower than those under control conditions; however, this difference was not significant. Analysis of the walk experience showed that participants who listened to forest birdsong during the walk liked the route more than those who listened to traffic sounds. The study demonstrated that exposure to traffic noise led to an immediate increase in walking speed. It was also shown that exposure to noise may influence participants’ perception of an environment. The same environment may be more liked in the absence of noise or in the presence of relaxation sounds. The study also documented the positive effect of listening to various kinds of relaxation sounds while walking in an outdoor environment with traffic noise.
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