Back before everyone and his elderly father had a Bluetooth headset
permanently affixed to their ear, talking on a mobile phone in
public was a foolproof way to let strangers know just how busy and
important you were (also: how loudly you could talk). Nowadays, people
just seem to want to talk about what they're having for dinner. So why
can't we stop eavesdropping? According to researchers at Cornell
University, it doesn't have anything to with your obsessive nosiness.
Rather, it's the speaker's fault, for conducting a "halfalogue." (Also
known as a one-sided conversation.) Scientific American
that halfalogues "make for dissonant eavesdropping because they are
unpredictable. The less information we glean from a conversation, the
harder our brains work to make sense of what we hear and the more
difficult it is to stop listening." They also "demand more of our
attention than dialogues and decrease our performance on other cognitive
tasks—whether we are sitting at a computer in the lab, trying to read
on the subway or driving a car."
No word yet on when the
"halfalogue defense" will first be used at trial.
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