This week I am over at Scientific American on their guest blog talking about a new study that came out in 2011 demonstrating for the first time a phenomenon known as “inattentional deafness.” It seems when we are very focused on something visually, we tend to “block out” sounds surrounding us that are not relevant to the visual task at hand.
In other words, ever wonder why your kids don’t answer you while you repeatedly call them for dinner? If they are playing their favorite video game then they may have been so busy processing the detailed information of the game that their ears were put on mute to lessen their sensory perceptual load.
See they’re good kids after all, it’s not that they are not listening, it’s just that they sincerely didn’t hear you.
Researchers think that the relationship of perceptual load between vision and hearing is very important and it may affect other aspects of our everyday lives such as driving a motor vehicle. They think if you are distracted by taking in all the information and images on a visually loaded billboard on the side of the highway, you might unintentionally ignore the sound of a car horn or an emergency vehicle.
I will be sure to keep an eye on the research for more studies on inattentional deafness. It’s a great example of ‘science hidden in plain sight!’