Hack #60. Pay Attention to Thrown Voices

Sounds from the same spatial location are harder to separate, but not if you use vision to fool your brain into “placing” one of the sounds somewhere else.

Sense information is mixed together in the brain and sorted by location [[Hack #54]], and we use this organization in choosing what to pay attention to (and therefore tune into). If you’re listening to two different conversations simultaneously, it’s pretty easy if they’re taking place on either side of your head—you can voluntarily tune in to whichever one you want. But let’s say those conversations were occurring in the same place, on the radio: it’s suddenly much harder to make out just one.

Hang on...how do we decide on the spatial location of a sense like hearing? For sound alone, we use clues implicit in what we hear, but if we can see where the sound originates, this visual information dominates [[Hack #53]].

Even if it’s incorrect.

In Action

Jon Driver from University College London 1 took advantage of our experience with syncing language sounds with lip movements to do a little hacking. He showed people a television screen showing a person talking, but instead of the speech coming from the television, it was played through a separate amplifier ...

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