Many situations require focusing attention on one speaker, while monitoring the environment for potentially important information. Some have proposed that dividing attention among 2 speakers involves behavioral trade-offs, due to limited cognitive resources. However the severity of these trade-offs, particularly under ecologically-valid circumstances, is not well understood. We investigated the capacity to process simultaneous speech using a dual-task paradigm simulating task-demands and stimuli encountered in real-life. Participants listened to conversational narratives (Narrative Stream) and monitored a stream of announcements (Barista Stream), to detect when their order was called. We measured participants' performance, neural activity, and skin conductance as they engaged in this dual-task. Participants achieved extremely high dual-task accuracy, with no apparent behavioral trade-offs. Moreover, robust neural and physiological responses were observed for target-stimuli in the Barista Stream, alongside significant neural speech-tracking of the Narrative Stream. These results suggest that humans have substantial capacity to process simultaneous speech and do not suffer from insufficient processing resources, at least for this highly ecological task-combination and level of perceptual load. Results: also confirmed the ecological validity of the advantage for detecting ones' own name at the behavioral, neural, and physiological level, highlighting the contribution of personal relevance when processing simultaneous speech.
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- cocktail party
- divided attention