Feeds

When is seeing not seeing?

Inattentional blindness

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Also in this week's column:

When is seeing not seeing?

Do you ever wonder how a magician is able to fool you with a trick, as they say, “right before your very eyes”?

Concentrate as much as you want, you cannot see the sleight of hand. Most of us believe that when we are looking at something, especially when we are really concentrating, we see everything important to see. But this is not true. And we have many behavioral studies to prove this.

As Dr. Daniel J. Simons, from the Department of Psychology at Harvard University writes in Trends in Cognitive Sciences (April, 2000), “Although we intuitively believe that salient or distinctive objects will capture our attention, surprisingly often they do not.

For example, drivers may fail to notice another car when trying to turn or a person may fail to see a friend in a cinema when looking for an empty seat, even if the friend is waving.” This behavioral phenomenon is called “inattentional blindness”. Some of the experiments with inattentional blindness have been fascinating:

  • When subjects are watching the movement of blue balls across the screen and trying to predict their direction, and then the balls suddenly change to green, 88 per cent of subjects fail to notice the color change.
  • When subjects are watching a video tape of two basketball teams passing the ball back and forth and then the uniforms of the one of the teams suddenly change color, one out of four subjects fails to notice the change.
  • When subjects are watching a video tape of a basketball game and a woman carrying an umbrella suddenly appears on the court amidst the players and the action and remains for as long as 4 seconds, again, one out of four subjects fails to notice her.
  • When subjects are viewing two crosses on a screen while trying to judge which is longer over several trials, and on the fourth trial one of the crosses suddenly becomes a rectangle, yet again, one out of four subjects fails to notice the change.

Some theories about inattentional blindness include:

  • Dr. S.B. Most and colleagues from the Department of Psychology at Harvard University write in Psychological Review (January 2005) that “the most influential factor” that affects how well one notices is “a person’s own attentional goals.”

    So, as the theory goes, when you are watching a football game and vitally interested in the game’s outcome, you are less likely to notice the bikini clad girl standing on the sidelines holding a big sign in the shape of a heart.

  • Based on their experiments, Drs. Mika Koivisto and Antti Revonsuo from the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Turku in Finland theorize in Psychological Research (Epub July 2006) that the closer the change is to what we are already seeing the more we will notice the change.

    It would seem that this is counter-intuitive and it would be just the opposite. But presto! There it is. That’s what subjects reveal. Unlike magicians, nothing up their sleeve!

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.