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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Distractions

When I am reading at a cafe, people around me speaking in a foreign language that I don't understand is significantly more distracting than people speaking in English. The question is why. Logically, if people are saying things that I understand then I should be able to focus less on what I am reading because the brain has to process two unrelated inputs simultaneously- reading and hearing. On the other hand, if I am hearing things in another language that I don't understand then my brain should be able to ignore this as noise and focus more on reading.

Does the brain have to work really hard to understand the foreign language even though it knows that it will not understand what is being said? Is that what causes the increased distraction? Do you know why?