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Ltryptophan's avatar

Have you ever heard someone crystal clear, but still asked, "What?", because you didn't understand at all?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10280points) February 22nd, 2010

It seems that a lot of times I say something to someone and I have spoken very clearly yet they still are puzzled for the first couple seconds.

Don’t get me wrong; I do this as well. For instance someone might say, “Pass the salt!”, to which you might expect my simply passing the salt, but on some occasions I say “What?”, or “Huh” as if my brain is pudding.

Do our brains turn to pudding if we are not looking!?

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28 Answers

ucme's avatar

What? Yeah I think it’s an example of us buying some time.Take a moment,god knows why.

erichw1504's avatar

It may be a quick (or subconcious) reaction to take some time for our brain to process what was just said. Also, it could be that we just aren’t listening. Like the saying goes: goes in one ear and comes out the other.

BoBo1946's avatar

the person has something on their mind!

Ltryptophan's avatar

@ucme definitely an attempt to buy some time now that you say it.

gailcalled's avatar

You might be thinking about something else (or three other issues). “Pass the salt” is not the most arresting request.

TheBot's avatar

It happens to me. It’s just a lack of attention. Perhaps you’re busy chewing or thinking about something from your day. When someone asks for the salt, you simply did not have your brain available to fully focus on the request.

Now if it’s in the case of someone speaking to you in the context of a conversation, it might be that what the other person is not just interesting enough. If it happens too often, and you also find yourself having trouble to focus at work, it may be a sign of ADD.

stump's avatar

I find I ask, “What?” to just about every question, unless I am already in the midst of a conversation and am already thinking along the lines of the question. For some reason, my mind needs a few seconds to place the question in context before I understand, and rather than stare blankly at the asker, I buy time with, “What?”

Trillian's avatar

Huh? .... Oh, yeah. No, that never happens to me.~

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Oh, yes. All the time during my multivariable calculus class in college. :-)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I do that because there is always something or someone on my mind or maybe I just like that person’s voice alot ;)

TheBot's avatar


Yeah, very true! the same happens to me. I sometimes focus on the way the person is saying something rather than what the person is saying.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@TheBot -That can tell you alot too :)

Berserker's avatar

Sometimes it just happens.

Zen_Again's avatar

Many times. Especially here. What?

Ltryptophan's avatar

@Symbeline why does that picture you link to look happier upside down?

Berserker's avatar

@Ltryptophan And so it does…well however I look at it, it looks like it’s on PCP. XD

DominicX's avatar

Yes, that happens to me in both directions. Sometimes, I say “what?” to what they say and while I’m saying “what” I remember what they say.

It often happens that they’ll say something like “are you going to N later?” and I’ll be like “what? no” because I immediately realized what they said and I answer the question anyway. I’ve definitely heard other people do this to things I have said as well.

Of course, when I start rambling about linguistics, people lose track really fast… :)

SABOTEUR's avatar

Common reaction when listening to politicians.

BoBo1946's avatar

@SABOTEUR LOLL…ditto, ditto, and ditto!

escapedone7's avatar

What you are referring to is central audio processing or auditory processing. Incidentally there is a learning disability called auditory processing disorder.It is the equivalent of dyslexia, only with hearing instead of vision. The mechanism of the ear is only the first have of “hearing”. Your brain has to then process the signals and make sense of them. Often elementary teachers who chastise children for “not listening” do not fully appreciate the complexities of audio processing. The failure to understand something heard is not necessarily an ear problem nor a behavioral problem done just to irritate the teacher. Just as you describe, sometimes your brain fails to process immediately what is heard.

filmfann's avatar

The answer from Pulp Fiction.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@filmfann LOL…good answer!

thriftymaid's avatar

Everyone does this to some degree; it buys time for your brain to formulate a response, especially if you are responding to something uncomfortable.

Pandora's avatar

Happens to me every morning. One morning I started coffee and staring at the filter, I was asking, “now where did that filter go”. My husband looked at me, and said, you mean the one in your hand? He then proceeded to make the coffee and told me to go back to bed. I’m not really great at 5 am.
Its not always your brain is pudding. Its just still napping. Other times its on pause.
I may have things on my mind but I heard what someone asked me. Later, I will recall and realize they were asking me. Took me a while because my mind was somewhere else at the time.

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