After a year of work and development we draw close to releasing 'StressFree' and 'PhobiaFree' our first apps. Richard has agreed to unchain his team from their desks and release them back into the world for a few hours to allow us to celebrate the impending launch and thank the team for their work. The team have begged to go for a meal as Richard generally starves his programmers while they work on a project as he feels they work the harder that way!
As my wife reads this blog I can't go into too much detail about the arrangements but I suspect a couple of glasses of wine may be drunk!
Being the sophisticated group we are we will probably retire, after our meal, to a bar for a couple of cocktails and chat into the night about computers and neuroscience. As the drinks flow and the tongues loosen this is when you need to be aware of the 'cocktail party effect'.
The 'cocktail party effect' is the process by which we can selectively tune out the general chit-chat in a busy room and listen to the person we are talking to. What you have to watch for is that although you aren't consciously aware of the other conversations if your brain detects important words such as you're name you can 'tune in' to that other conversation.
This is an example of a broader part of how the brain functions called 'selective attention' this is the process by which we are only consciously aware of a tiny fraction of the information the brain is receiving. This is probably because otherwise we would be overwhelmed by information and unable to deal with it. The brain has developed ways of 'selecting' the things you need to be aware of. At an evolutionary level our ancestors were probably attuned to the crackling of twigs in the bushes which may indicate a predator. The modern equivalent is hearing your name at a party across the room which may indicate someone is going to say something damaging to you.
Similar processes go on in what we see as well as what we hear. This is what allows us to catch something out of the corner of our eye and immediately refocus to it.
Now don't imagine I think this will be a problem at our party we have a great relationship with 'The Froggers' but you might want to think about it when you next start gossiping about your boss who is across the room at a party!