Cocktail Party Effect - the ability to focus on a single speaker, even if there are many speaking people around

We listen to a single conversation at a cocktail party. All of the other noise is filtered out and largely ignored.

 We manage to tune into the voice of the person we are talking to.

See -

"This generally happens in all perception: some of the stimulus is filtered out for conscious analysis. This enables us to filter out the rest of the conversation at a party and concentrate on only one person's voice.

The 'figure-ground' phenomenon is the separation of the auditory input into the components of figure (the attended signal) and ground (everything else, in the background). However, an interesting point is that if someone over the other side of the room suddenly sees us and calls out our name, we generally notice quite quickly. This suggests that some processing of the other information does occur, enough to often enable to pick up on bits of it in certain situations, for example if it is a familiar voice.

Cherry (1953) discovered that it is based upon characteristics of the speech that we are attending to, and its differences from other sounds that are present."

See: Arons, Barry, 'A Review of The Cocktail Party Effect' at

Experiment -




Note also - 'figure-ground' phenomenon





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