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Cocktail party effect

The cocktail party effect is the phenomenon of the brain's ability to focus one's auditory attention (an effect of selective attention in the brain) on a particular stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli, as when a partygoer can focus on a single conversation in a noisy room. Listeners have the ability to both segregate different stimuli into different streams, and subsequently decide which streams are most pertinent to them. Thus, it has been proposed that one’s sensory memory subconsciously siphons through all stimuli, and when an important word or phrase with high meaning appears, it stands out to the listener. This effect is what allows most people to "tune into" a single voice and "tune out" all others. It may also describe a similar phenomenon that occurs when one may immediately detect words of importance originating from unattended stimuli, for instance hearing one's name in another conversation during a cocktail party.

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A famous video on selective attention. Can you count how many times they pass the ball? If you pass the test, nice job. Most people don't, but don't worry--this is normal and simply shows your brain is working the way it's supposed to.

Contributed by Sammo Lea

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