It’s a phenomenon that has long fascinated the scientific community: When in a noisy, crowded room, a person will still prick up their ears if their name is mentioned. Equally, two guests can isolate what the other says from the surrounding cacophony. They are able to engage in a private conversation without speaking louder than those around them. This is known as the “cocktail party effect, ” but it was air traffic controllers, not socialites, who led to its study This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-Eight Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 48 Jordan Casteel The acclaimed painter of people—and now plants. Arts & Culture Issue 48 The Sweet Spot How long is the perfect vacation? Arts & Culture Issue 48 Cliff Tan Four questions for a feng shui guru. Arts & Culture Issue 48 Figure Skating with Mirai Nagasu The Olympic athlete has known glory, pain and transcendence on the ice. Arts & Culture Issue 48 Sweet Nothing On the virtues of hanging out. Arts & Culture Issue 48 The Art of Fashion On what artists’ clothes communicate.