Cocktail Party Effect and Jr. High Students Part 4

Media Priority

When they are a young person’s primary activity, TV and videogames are the least multitasked media, while reading and computer activities such as IM, computer games and looking at websites are the most multitasked. Specifically, nearly two-thirds of the time young people spend reading, playing computer games or looking at websites, they are also doing something else at the same time (63% when playing computer games or looking at websites, 64% when IMing). But the same is true less than half the time they are watching TV (45%) or playing videogames (45%). Young people are more likely to focus their attention exclusively on TV than on reading: 55% of the time that they are watching TV as their primary activity they are doing nothing else, compared to only 38% of the time they are reading as their primary activity. (Foehr, 2006b)

81% of pre-teen and teenagers spend part of their media time multitasking, in an average week, but 19% of young people don’t media multitask at all over the course of a typical week. Factors that added to the possibility for young people to multitask were those who have a computer and can see a television from it, sensation seekers, those who are exposed to a highly TV-oriented household, and girls (more than boys) are all more likely to media multitask. (Foehr, 2006b)

Conclusions and Multi-Tasking Problems

Looking at the jr. high student and teenager multi-tasking seems to be evident in the majority of their everyday life with no outlook of change. The question then becomes what are they missing out on. Exposure to chat rooms, IM, email, Facebook and Twitter causes a breakdown in the traditional oral tradition of human nature. Media is causing the inability for true involvement in each others lives without a screen coming in between two individuals.

Cherry concluded that our ability to separate sounds from background noise is based on the characteristics of the sounds, such as the gender of the speaker, the direction from which the sound is coming, the pitch or the speaking speed. The cocktail party effect was based on audible sounds whereas today jr. high students focus in on multiple tasks in downtimes during IM, or by focusing in on perceptual grouping (when two channels are semantically consistent, for example audio and video on a t.v. screen allow viewers to process, attend and recall information easily. Perceptual grouping is just another form of transition probabilities (different pitch, voice, or tone) that Cherry proposed as a filter for the cocktail party effect.

Just like Cherry, Broadbent proposed his filter theory that directly explains multi-tasking. Jr. high students are provided with various stimuli and they filter what media is important at that moment and once they finish they can move on to the next stimuli that was stored in their memory, so they can attend to it at a latter time (i.e. finishing a text message and then going to do a homework question, while singing a song on the radio, and then replying to the pop up IM message on their computer screen.

The problem them becomes how to reach this age group if they are constantly switching their attention from media source to media source. If media multitasking becomes the norm for young people, advertisers and pro-social marketers have numerous problems coming at them. h When their media attention is divided, how can they be reached? The jr. high age bracket is in danger of becoming so media charged that they will find it difficult to pick up any positive message that is thrown their direction. The main danger is that they may not be able to be reached by any medium.


Cocktail Party Effect and Jr. High Students Part 3

Suggested Filters

Cherry’s suggested a few possible filters to help distinguish between conversations

1. The voices come from different directions

2. Lip-reading, gestures, and the like

3. Different speaking voices, mean pitches, mean speeds, male vs. female, and so forth

4. Different accents

5. Transition probabilities (based on subject matter, voice dynamics, syntax . . .) (Arons, 1992)

Jr. High Filters

Explanations for the ability to multi-task in jr. high students

1. Different media causes different reactions (i.e. listening to music while typing is two different tasks)

2. Audible sounds are coming from different directions

3. IM (Instant Message Screens) provide small moments of freedom to finish up other tasks

4. Perceptual grouping (when two channels are semantically consistent, for example audio and video on a t.v. screen allow viewers to process, attend and recall information easily (Bergen, L., Grimes, T., & Potter, D., 2005 and Foehr, 2006b)

As seen in Cherry’s original research the idea of multi tasking among teens does not strive far from the cocktail problem effect. Both need a varying stimulus in order to perceive more then one conversation, or media application.

Broadbent’t Filter Theory (Image 1.1) (Broadbent, 1958 & Smith, 2002)

The diagram shows how the flow of sensory information flows through a variation of processes, that would range from our left-right. The diagram also shows how stimulus received at the same time fight to make it through our selective filter. Our selective filter sorts through the received stimulus to decide how to further process or attend to only one of the imputing stimulus, which is passed along to the limited capacity channels, two substantially more advanced subsystems. The first, system for varying output until some input is secured, which is eventually in direct contact and

communication with our motor systems (effectors). That circulation is responsible for maintaining and initiating behavior towards a goal. The second subsystem is the store of conditional probabilities of past events, and is responsible, via the feedback pathway shown, for modulating the decisions being made by the filter towards those inputs which past experience indicates are associated with success at the goal in question (or similar goals). Another feedback pathway recycles material which is at risk of being lost due to the limited capacity of the filter and its channel back into

short term memory storage. (Broadbent, 1958 & Smith, 2002)

Broadbent’t Filter Theory in Regards to Multi-Tasking (Image 1.2) (Broadbent, 1958 & James, 2006)

This filter functions together with a buffer, and enables the subject to handle two kinds of stimuli, presented at the same time. One of the inputs is allowed through the filter, while the

other is waiting in in the buffer for later processing. The filter prevents overloading of the limited capacity mechanism beyond the filter, which is the short term memory. Most information processing theories suggest that there is a limit to what our brains can actually process ‘simultaneously’(Meyer, D.E., & Kieras, D.E.,1997, Pashler, H., 2000, S. Mansell & J.Driver, & Foehr, 2006b). Research shows that while we can perceive two stimuli in parallel, we cannot process them simultaneously.(Pashler, 2000, Mansell, 2000 & Foehr, 2006b). This phenomenon has been named the psychological refractory period (PRP). Messages A-D could be any multi-media source, whether IM, email, homework, or watching t.v., as the attention switches between tasks the older stimuli are retrieved from the long term memory store so that multi-tasking can continue. Each task goes through the selective filter at different times so that the teen can choose at their convenience what task to attend to at that moment. With the information and the Filter Theory as a plan young people are not processing non-complementary messages they are simply filtering different tasks just as Cherry proposed with the cocktail party theory suggests that different pitches, tones and direction of audible sounds aloud for easier pick up of multiple conversations.

Cocktail Party Effect and Jr. High Students Part 2

Introductory Research

“One of the most striking facts about our ears is that we have two of them—

and yet we hear one acoustic world; only one voice per speaker”(Cherry, 1953 pp. 975-979 & Arons, 1992)

Much of the early work in this area can be traced to problems faced by air traffic controllers in the early 1950’s. At that time, controllers received messages from pilots over loudspeakers in the control tower. Hearing the intermixed voices of many pilots over a single loudspeaker made the controller ’s task very difficult.

This concerns the problem of following only one conversation while many other conversations are going on around us. Cherry studied “shadowing tasks to study this problem, which involve playing two different auditory messages to a participant’s left and right ears and instructing them to attend to only one. The participant must then shadow this attended message” (Arons, 1992)

Cherry found that very little information about the unattended message was obtained by his participants: “physical characteristics were detected but semantic characteristics were not. Cherry therefore concluded that unattended auditory information receives very little processing and that we use physical differences between messages to select which one we attend to”(Arons, 1992).

Jr. High Research

In my two years working with jr. high students I have been able to make some correlations between the separation of two voices in the cocktail party effect and the technological savvy of this age group. Instead of being able to pull out different conversations they can multi-task among technological devices. The ability to text message and keep up a conversation, or listen to a lesson. Even though they are focused on a cell phone they are still able to pull out the importance of the conversation going on around them. I have seen that they are able to switch between devices easily because they are different means. Just as Cherry pointed out that different tones are easier to switch between so to are the different functions and screens that the jr. high students transfer between each and every day. Foehr’s 2006 thesis, Media multitasking among American youth: Prevalence, pairings and predictors, explores trends in the relatively newly researched phenomenon of media multitasking among American youth. The premise of the study described here is that the way young people use media is changing dramatically. New technologies, such as the computer and handheld devices (e.g., personal data assistants, or PDAs), appear to foster the behavior pattern of constantly switching between such activities as instant messaging (IM), emailing, playing a video game, ordering a book online, or watching the news on television. The phenomenon of engaging in more than one media activity at a time “is a common occurrence” (Foehr, 2006a); in 2005, a Kaiser Family Foundation (Foehr, 2006a) report showed an increase in media multitasking: 26% of media time is spent on multiple media, up from 16% of media time in 1999.

Switching attention from one task to another, the toggling action, occurs right behind the forehead called Brodmann’s Area 10 in the brain’s anterior prefrontal cortex, “’The most anterior part allows you to leave something when it’s incomplete and return to the same place and continue from there.’ This gives us a ‘form of multitasking,’ he says, though it’s actually sequential processing. Because the prefrontal cortex is one of the last regions of the brain to mature and one of the first to decline with aging, young children do not multitask well, and neither do most adults over 60” (Wallis, 2006).

Cocktail Party Effect and Jr. High Students Part 1

The cocktail party effect attempts to explain the reasoning behind the question, If I have two ears why can I only focus my attention solidly on one audible source. The ‘cocktail party effect’ by definition is the ability an individual has to focus their attention on a single conversation, audible noise, or the ability to pick their name out among various other background noises and conversations happening around them. This effect can happen in one of two different situations: First, when an individual is focused on one sound that is around them, or secondly, when we become invoked by a sudden stimulus that grabs our attention (i.e. someone calls your name from across the room). Our hearing reaches a noise suppression from 9 to 15 dB, i.e., the acoustic source, on which humans concentrate, seems to be three times louder than the ambient noise. The cocktail party effect has become more noticeable in society with the introduction of more ‘distractions’ in every day situations (i.e. cell phones, iPods, video games etc.) The goal of this paper is to examine the original research on the cocktail party effect and examine how it is relevant or even noticeable in among the jr. high age bracket of grades 6-8.

The motivation of the correlation of the early work of the cocktail party effect and the research done with jr. high students would be to see how technology has become so dominant in their culture that their ability to multi-task is their new ‘cocktail party effect’.