Conversations Around You

The term cocktail party effect was stamped by Colin Cherry, a British Psychologist. He conducted experiments to figure out how people listened. One experiment he had different overlapping messages that were recorded and the participant had to focus on one of the messages. The one message the participants focused on- had to written down. When concentrating enough the participant could write the message down.

The cocktail party effect is a psychological process that affects one’s auditory attention. You have the ability to focus attention on a particular stimulus while filtering all of the other stimulus around. This is the same way a person at a party can focus their attention on a single conversation in the no

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isy room. I would compare this to being in the U.C. and trying to hold a conversation with a professional or a family member over the phone. We have the one stimulus that we focus on (the conversation with the professor or family member) and filtering out the surrounding noises (conversations, the sounds of phones and music). This process exercises your selective attention.


This video goes over the process and different sounds that go into affect for the process. He shows two different outputs and two different microphones. The microphones have the sounds/sources of noises and conversation. And the outputs applies an algorithm to the microphones. He later goes over the algorithm in the video but I won’t go into that.

This process basically explains my life – in college and at home. At college, there is someone constant talking to somebody about something no mater where you are on campus. You either listen and focus on your conversation or listen and focus the conversation happening around you. Whether someone talking to you or not – the process is being applied to the situation. You are still focusing on a single thing and blocking out the distractions. At my house is the same thing- a person is always talking.


4 thoughts on “Conversations Around You

  1. kaygoss

    This is really interesting because I am always trying to assert my attention to one particular conversation while trying to drown out the noise in the back. There are always certain key words however that can pull me out of my direct conversation and into the surrounding area. Maybe it’s just because of my field of work and certain things can be triggering for immediate attention? Either way it is something that happens every day.

    1. tsmith24 Post author

      This also happens to me, where when I’m in an conversation and my attention is pulled by certain words from a near by conversation. Since I don’t know your field of work- I don’t know if your attention is conditioned to respond to key words. For example, if you are in the medical field- blood or emergency might be words that grab your attention from a conversation. And I would also say that it is normal for this to happen in your everyday life.

  2. estreete

    The cocktail phenomenon has always really interested me. I find it fascinating that we can tune out so many different stimuli to focus on one. I have an autoimmune disease that makes my body very sensitive to all stimuli, so I become overwhelmed very easily with lots of loud noises, strong smells, bright lights, etc. This means that selective attention is challenging for me. Although it is difficult, I can still focus when need be.

  3. jwhearty

    I can relate to the people around you constantly talking at school and at home. At home, I could be having a conversation. with my brother, but I can also hear my parents talking. I can tune out my parents until I hear my name or something related to me and my interests like horses. I think the cocktail phenomenon a really cool capability that our brain has.

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