New research has found that our brains often miss key words – including ones that can change the meaning of a sentence.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) found that our brains don’t process every word – so a sentence like “After a plane crash, where should the survivors be buried?” will leave people wondering what an appropriate burial place would be. (If you’re confused, read the sentence again – I had to try it three times!).

“What makes researchers particularly interested in people’s failure to notice words that actually don’t make sense, so called semantic illusions, is that these illusions challenge traditional models of language processing which assume that we build understanding of a sentence by deeply analysing the meaning of each word in turn.

Instead semantic illusions provide a strong line of evidence that the way we process language is often shallow and incomplete.” (Science Daily)

The researchers recommend that important information is put at the start of a sentence, and also to avoid multi-tasking when listening to an important message.