Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/19/the_odd_body_seeing/

When is seeing not seeing?

Inattentional blindness

By Stephen Juan

Posted in Science, 19th January 2007 17:44 GMT

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:

Some theories about inattentional blindness include:

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