More than two thirds of those eavesdropping on the women failed to notice the man, who repeated the words for 19 seconds. The researchers said it was an example of how intense conversation can leave us "deaf" to the world around us.
A recording of two men at a table in a room and two women at another table, talking about getting ready for a party, was played to a group of volunteers. Some listened to the women's conversation and others to the men's, believing they would be asked afterwards about what had been said. In fact, they were asked if they had heard anything unusual - and only 30 percent of those listening to the women spotted the interloper, the journal Cognition
"We were surprised to find such extreme effects with a listening task because people often think of hearing as an 'early warning system' that can alert us to unexpected events that occur out of sight," lead researcher, psychologist Dr Polly Dalton, said. Previous studies revealed how focusing on one thing can leave us "blind" to events happening right in front of us, but this Royal Holloway, University of London study is the first to show that hearing is similarly affected.
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