‘Gorilla man’ goes unheard

Tracking a conversation can block out peripheral sounds

By Bruce Bower, 15:08 PM November 7, 2011

SEATTLE — Good listeners inadvertently turn a deaf ear to unexpected sounds. Attending closely to a conversation creates a situation in which unusual, clearly audible background utterances frequently go totally unheard, says psychologist Polly Dalton of the University of London.

This finding takes the famous “invisible gorilla effect” from vision into the realm of hearing, Dalton reported November 4 at the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society. More than a decade ago, researchers observ...

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