Science has given you the perfect excuse next time you’re accused of ignoring your girlfriend

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Chris Sayer

Lab boffins may not be able to explain why our other halves like to strike up conversation while we’re staring at Monday Night Football, but they can now finally explain why their attempts often fall on deaf ears.

Not only that, scientists from University College London have even got a term for it: inattentional deafness.

In news that could save 95 per cent of domestic arguments, head scans on 13 subjects showed a huge reduction in brain response to sound when focusing on a complicated word search compared to levels when doing a far easier puzzle. Put simply, when your ears and eyes are competing against each other for brain power, your peepers seem to triumph.

"The brain scans showed that people were not only ignoring or filtering out the sounds, they were not actually hearing them in the first place," Maria Chait, co-author of the study, said.

Inattentional deafness is more common than you think. "This could also explain why you might not hear your train or bus stop being announced if you’re concentrating on your phone, book or paper," suggests Professor Nilli Lavie at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a fairly straightforward solution that irate girlfriends can use to solve the problem: "Shouting might help," says the prof.

We’ll pretend we didn’t hear that.


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Chris Sayer

Chris Sayer is a freelance journalist and editor based in London. Chris has interviewed some of the biggest names in entertainment and travelled the world doing an all manner of adventures for lots of brilliant magazines. He writes for Shortlist about booze but would probably prefer we let him write about fishing instead. Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisSayer00

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