Do you ever get accused of “not listening” because you’re glancing down at your phone? Here is a study that suggests it’s not your fault (sort of).
Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience has revealed that concentrating on a visual task (say, scrolling through your Instagram feed) may render you temporarily deaf to normal-volume sounds (like your friend’s story about … what was she talking about again?)
For the small study, researchers from the University College London analyzed the real-time brain activity of 13 volunteers as they completed visual tasks while sounds played in the background. As the tasks got harder, the brain’s response to sound was reduced.
“The brain scans showed that people were not only ignoring or filtering out the sounds, they were not actually hearing them in the first place, ” study co-author Maria Chait, PhD, explained in a press release. These findings suggest that our vision and our hearing share limited resources in the brain, which is essentially forced to choose between processing info from our eyes or our ears.
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So-called inattentional deafness could explain why you miss your bus stop announcement while you’re reading a book, for example. Or why your boyfriend can’t hear you calling him while he’s watching TV. This phenomenon is a common occurrence in everyday life, co-author Nilli Lavie, PhD, pointed out in the study’s press release. “And now we know why,” she said.