Neville Moray

Neville Moray (May 27, 1935 – 15 December 2017) was a British/Canadian academic and Professor at the Department of Psychology of the University of Surrey,known from his 1959 research of the cocktail party effect.

Moray became known for his scientific contributions to the cocktail party effect, which became his major research interest for about two decades. This effect concerns the phenomenon of being able to focus one’s auditory attention on a particular stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli. The effect was first defined and named “the cocktail party problem” by Colin Cherry in 1953. Cherry found that participants were able to detect their name from the unattended channel, the channel they were not shadowing.Moray build his research using Cherry’s shadowing task. He was able to conclude that almost none of the rejected messages were able to penetrate the block set up, except subjectively “important” messages.

Neville Moray used Cherry’s shadowed dichotic listening task in his 1959 research and was able to conclude that almost none of the rejected messages were able to penetrate the block set up, except subjectively “important” messages.Personal names, taboo language, and backward language are the “subjectively” important messages that have been found to date. Moray’s 1959 study found a 33% detection rate for personal names, which revealed that participants sometimes notice their name in an ignored auditory channel. This ability to selectively attend to one’s own name has been found in infants as young as five months of age and appears to be fully developed by thirteen months of age.

Rochelle S. Newman in a 2005 study found that five-month-old infants listened longer to their names when the target voice was 10 dB, but not 5 dB more intense than the background noise. Nine-month-olds also failed at 5 dB, but thirteen-month-olds succeeded. This success in recognizing one’s own name in the unattended channel can be explained using Cherry’s initial report on dichotic shadowing. Cherry found that the verbal content of the message in the unattended channel was completely blocked, so that the words were treated as merely sounds. This allows the subject to know that something has stimulated the ear whose message is rejected. It may be thought of as a general warning signal, that a sound has occurred to which the subject might need to respond.


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