Feeds

When is seeing not seeing?

Inattentional blindness

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

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

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.