Washington: We may have all been through or heard of incidents when people get so engrossed in a page-turning novel or challenging crossword that they may fail to hear the train driver`s announcement and miss their stop.
Now, researchers from University College London have discovered that focusing on a task can result in the experience of deafness to perfectly audible sounds in individuals with perfectly normal hearing.
Professor Nilli Lavie from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL explains this phenomenon by saying that "Inattentional deafness is a common everyday experience”.
The study included a number of experiments designed to hold participants attention while a tone was played through a set of headphones. During the easier tasks only two in ten missed the tone, however during more complex tasks eight out of ten failed to identify it.
"Hearing is often thought to have evolved as an early warning system that does not depend on attention, yet our work shows that if our attention is taken elsewhere, we can be effectively deaf to the world around us," explains Professor Lavie. "In our task, most people noticed the sound if the task being performed was easy and did not demand their full concentration. However, when the task was harder they experienced deafness to the very same sound."
The study has been published in the journal ``Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics``.