The brain is built to multitask, as long as the tasks require different types of perception. Some scientists have proposed that when the brain processes information from any sense, those data are then converted to an abstract code. This "code central" theory helps to explain how we transfer rules learned through one sense to another.
But it also suggests that we should be prone to mixing up information coming in from two senses at once because they would both be reduced to the same code. To test that prediction, Christopher Conway of Indiana University and Morten Christiansen of Cornell University evaluated how well people could discern complex patterns in sequences of objects on a computer screen or sounds played through headphones. The sounds or objects appeared based on two complex sets of invented rules, also known as "grammars."
This article was originally published with the title Think Again.