New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience explains why visually focusing on a task renders you deaf to your surroundings. Which does not excuse phubbing for instance, yet it offers an explanation that may be easier to deal with.
Professor Nilli Lavie with the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and co-author on the study explained that the phenomenon is called inattentional deafness. Inattentional deafness is a common experience for all of us. Most of the times it makes us feel ignored by others when we communicate something while they’re engaged in visually compelling tasks. Nonetheless, there is a scientific explanation for this. We’re not being ignored. Hearing and seeing have a limited amount of resources in the same center of the brain.
So while we’re engaged in a visually compelling task and our attention is devoted to that specific task, the resources for hearing become limited. Thus, we suffer temporarily from inattentional deafness.
For instance, if the person we are trying to communicate something to is reading a book or watching the favourite TV show, it is quite likely they won’t hear a word of what we say. That’s not ignoring, it’s just temporary deafness to their surrounding. Granted, this behavior is rather dangerous under certain circumstances.
The researchers explained that if we’re concentrated on swiping through our messages, Facebook or reading the news while we’re crossing the street or in crowded public areas, we’re likely to not hear anything around us. We’ll be utterly deaf to a car or the bus pulling in the station and could easily jump into conflicts for bumping into people on the street.
There’s also the case of relationships. A recent study has shown that in those relationships where phubbing occurs often (phone snubbing), partners feel unhappy, ignored and resentful. Inattentional deafness may explain why, although it certainly doesn’t excuse the behavior.
The findings of the study were based on the analysis of brain scans from 13 participants. While they were engaged in visually challenging tasks, the researchers transmitted audio signals. The brain scans showed that the response to audio signals was significantly reduced at the time. Thus, visually focusing on a task renders you deaf to your surroundings in most of the cases.
The brain scans showed that the participants weren’t ignoring the audio signals or filtering them out. They actually did not hear them at all. Inattentional deafness has been observed with surgeons who need an extra hand when it comes to monitoring the equipment in the operating room as they are performing a challenging surgical operation.
Photo Credits: Pixabay