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In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.

 

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January 29th, 2011

Spare Us the Halfalogue

 
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sparehalfologue-flashScientific American has a fun podcast on one of the more irksome elements of modern life: Hearing half of the inane conversation of a fellow passenger on mass transportation.

Researchers have found that it is more distracting to listen to half of a conversation — dubbed a halfalogue — than it is to listen to two people chatting in front of you. Although, as someone who spends a lot of time working at coffee shops, it’s really distracting to a) listen to someone get fired; b) hear to one woman offer bad dating advice to another woman; and c) try to focus when two men are discussing their weight-lifting regimens – and the importance of interspersing yoga three days a week – in very loud voices. But I digress.

Reports FoxNews.com

Whether it is the office, on a train or in a car, only half of the conversation is overheard which drains more attention and concentration than when overhearing two people talking, according to scientists at Cornell University.

“We have less control to move away our attention from half a conversation (or halfalogue) than when listening to a dialogue,” said Lauren Emberson, a co-author of the study that will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

“Since halfalogues really are more distracting and you can’t tune them out, this could explain why people are irritated,” she said in an interview.

This research also suggests that talking on your cell phone when someone else is driving is very distracting to the driver.

Embrace that good old virtue of silence. Please.

 
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The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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