Hearing The Same Thing Over And Over Again Causes You To Listen/Understand/ Less

‍Harold Robert Meyer  9/13/2023

In today’s fast-paced world, we are constantly bombarded with information. Whether it’s through social media, news outlets, or advertising, we are exposed to a never-ending stream of messages. However, have you ever noticed that when you hear the same thing over and over again, it starts to lose its impact? This phenomenon is known as desensitization to repeated messages, and it can profoundly affect our ability to understand and listen effectively. It greatly impacts relationships, especially if one or both people have ADHD.

When we are exposed to repetitive information, our brains have a tendency to filter it out. This is because our brains are wired to pay attention to novel and unfamiliar stimuli. When we encounter something for the first time, our brains automatically engage and process the information. However, as we continue to hear the same message repeatedly, our brains become less responsive. We become desensitized to the information, and it becomes background noise.

The Science Behind Desensitization to Repeated Messages

The desensitization effect is rooted in the way our brains process information. Our brains have a limited capacity for attention, and they prioritize incoming stimuli based on their perceived importance. When we hear the same thing over and over again, our brains categorize it as familiar and less important. As a result, our brains allocate less attention and cognitive resources to process the information.

Research has shown that the repetition of a message can actually decrease its impact on our brains. A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Illinois found that repeated exposure to a stimulus led to a decrease in neural response. In other words, the more we hear the same thing, the less our brains respond to it. This desensitization effect can be detrimental to our ability to understand and listen effectively.

The Cognitive Effects of Hearing the Same Thing Repeatedly

The desensitization effect not only affects our ability to pay attention but also has cognitive consequences. When we are exposed to repetitive information, our brains enter a state of automatic processing. This means that we rely on established mental scripts and schemas to understand the information without actively engaging with it. As a result, we may miss important details, fail to comprehend the message fully, or completely ignore it.

Furthermore, hearing the same thing repeatedly can lead to cognitive fatigue. Our brains have a limited capacity for mental effort, and constantly processing the same information can be mentally draining. This can result in a decreased ability to concentrate, retain information, and make connections between ideas. In essence, the more we hear the same thing, the less cognitive resources we have available to process and understand it.

How Repetition Affects Listening and Understanding

Repetitive information diminishes our ability to listen effectively and hampers our understanding of the message. When we hear the same thing over and over again, our brains tend to fill in the gaps and make assumptions about the information. This can lead to a distorted perception of the message and a decreased understanding of its true meaning.

Moreover, repetition can also lead to a phenomenon known as semantic satiation. This occurs when a word or phrase is repeated to the point where it loses its meaning and becomes a meaningless sound. When this happens, our brains struggle to process the information and may experience confusion or disorientation.

Strategies to Combat the Desensitization Effect

While the desensitization effect may seem overwhelming, there are strategies that can help combat it and enhance our ability to listen and understand in a repetitive world. One effective strategy is to introduce novelty into the message. By presenting information in a new and unexpected way, we can capture our audience’s attention and engage their brains. This can be done through creative storytelling, interactive elements, or incorporating multimedia content.

Another strategy is to vary the delivery of the message. Instead of relying solely on verbal communication, consider using visual aids, demonstrations, or hands-on activities. This multi-modal approach can stimulate different areas of the brain and enhance comprehension. Incorporating humor, emotion, or personal anecdotes can increase engagement and aid in information retention.

The Role of Novelty in Improving Attention and Comprehension

Novelty plays a crucial role in improving attention and comprehension. When we encounter something new and unfamiliar, our brains automatically engage and process the information. This heightened level of attention allows us to absorb and understand the message more effectively. Incorporating novelty into our communication can overcome the desensitization effect and make our messages more impactful.

Practical Tips for Effective Communication in Repetitive Situations

Start with a preamble. Pick the right time and place, and don’t do it after something negative has happened. You can begin by saying, It is very important for me that…, It would be great if we could…, etc. What will the listener gain by listening to what you have to say? You may think it is obvious, but to someone with ADHD it may not be. Tell the person up-front.

Avoid using “you” as it can easily be construed as accusatory and will make the listener defensive and closed to what you have to say.  

It is important to acknowledge a change in “behavior” if it occurs. It is human nature to love praise, and acknowledgement.

In order to enhance communication in repetitive situations, it is important to consider the following tips:

  1. Be concise and clear: Avoid unnecessary repetition and focus on delivering your message in a concise and clear manner. (KISS: Keep it simple stupid)
  2. Non-verbal cues: Watch your body language, tone, and volume. (Remember that non-verbal communication accounts for most communications.)
  3. Use visual aids: Incorporate visual aids such as images to support your message and engage the other person visually.
  4. Break the monotony: Introduce variety into your communication by using different mediums, tones, or styles to keep the other person engaged and interested.
  5. Encourage active participation: Create opportunities for the other person to actively participate in the communication process through discussions, questions, or hands-on activities.
  6. Provide context: Help your audience understand the relevance and importance of the information by providing context and real-life examples.

The Importance of Diverse and Engaging Content

To combat the desensitization effect, it is crucial to provide diverse and engaging content. This means going beyond repetitive information and offering a variety of perspectives, ideas, and formats. By providing diverse content, we can keep the other person engaged and interested in what we have to say.

Engaging content is also essential for effective communication. When our messages are engaging, they capture our audience’s attention and hold their interest. This allows for better comprehension and understanding of the information being conveyed. Incorporating storytelling, interactive elements, and multimedia content can help make our messages more engaging and memorable.

Conclusion: Enhancing Listening and Understanding in a Repetitive World

In a world filled with repetitive information, it is crucial to recognize the impact it has on our ability to listen and understand. The desensitization effect can hinder our cognitive processes and diminish our comprehension of the messages we encounter. However, we can combat the desensitization effect and enhance our listening and understanding by implementing strategies that introduce novelty, vary the delivery of information, and provide diverse and engaging content. By being mindful of how we communicate and leveraging technology to deliver information innovatively, we can ensure that our messages are heard, understood, and retained. So, the next time you find yourself hearing the same thing over and over again, remember that redundancy reduces your ability to absorb what is being said.

As I repeatedly say in my articles,  “Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply.” Albert Einstein was reported to have said, “Insanity is making the same mistakes again and expecting a different result.” Repeating the same thing over and over is nagging and not communicating. It’s not a good idea.

For parents with school-age children with or without ADHD, it would be a good idea to now visit Letter to Mom and Dad – ADD Resource Center (addrc.org) (addrc.org)

Harold Robert Meyer – The ADHD Resource Center 9/13/2023


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