Do you get annoyed when you have to listen to someone else’s cellphone conversation? Well there’s a scientific reason as well as a social one. New research finds that the brain finds it more taxing, and therefore more distracting, to listen to only half of a conversation versus the whole thing.
Researchers did a series of experiments in which college students were asked to do certain tasks that required their full attention under different conditions.
When they did these tasks while listening to a dialogue, they did just as well as they did in a silent room. They also did well when listening to one person recounting an earlier conversation.
But when they heard only one side of the dialogue — similar to overheard cell phone chatter — the number of mistakes piled up.
The research will appear in a upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.