Here’s Why You Ignore Everyone When You’re Texting

Have you ever been ignored when trying to talk to someone playing a video game? Or missed your train stop because you didn’t hear the announcer when you were checking your phone?

Scientists refer to this experience as inattentional deafness — our natural tendency to fail to notice sounds when our mind is focused elsewhere — and it’s surprisingly common in our daily lives.

A small study from University College London, published in The Journal of Neuroscience Wednesday, found that focusing on a visual task can make you momentarily deaf to normal-level sounds around you.

Dr. Maria Chait, a professor of neuroscience at the university who worked with lead author Kate Molloy on the study, said that we all try to multitask, but the findings suggest that our brains are not as good at this as we might think.

“Modern environments are designed with the assumption that providing information through multiple senses simultaneously will help us process more information more efficiently,” she told The Huffington Post. “Our work demonstrates that that this assumption is incorrect.”

The researchers conducted brain scans on 13 study participants while they were engaged in a demanding visual task. During the task, they were very briefly shown ambiguous-looking letters that they had to quickly decipher. The scientists found that the brain’s response to sound was significantly reduced and the volunteers could not hear sounds that were clearly audible.

“The ear sends information about the sound input to the brain, and it is the brain that brings this information to our conscious awareness,” Chait said. “If the brain is unable to process that input, because your attentional resources are occupied by another task, signals that the ear sends to the brain … will not be heard.”

However, the participants could detect the sounds when they were —> Read More