Psychology Phenomena {19} ~ The Cocktail Party Effect

The cocktail party effect is the phenomenon of the brain’s ability to focus one’s auditory attention on a particular stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli, such 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 parses all stimuli and identifies discrete pieces of information by classifying them by salience. This effect is what allows most people to “tune into” a single voice and “tune out” all others. This phenomenon is often described in terms of “selective attention” or “selective hearing”. 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 among a wide range of auditory input.

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