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The mystery of the “cocktail party” effect solved!


Scientists from the University of California have found out how “the cocktail party effect” works. The cocktail party effect is the well-known human ability to focus on and pick out the speech of one person in a large crowd where there is a lot of background noise.

The cocktail party effect has both psychological and neurological components, the researchers found. All the sounds enter the ears as a cacophonous roar, but the brain processes the information and tunes into one sound, e.g. a person’s voice, and filters out the rest.
“The psychological component is that it’s a sound we want or need to hear which is why we can tune into it,” said co-author Dr. Edward Chang, assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, who made the discovery together with electrical engineer Nima Mesgarani.
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