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Inattentional Blindness

 

Explanations > Theories > Inattentional Blindness

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

Inattentional Blindness occurs where attention to one thing causes us to miss what to others may seem to be blindingly obvious.

We have a limited ability to focus and attention in one area can distract us from another area.

Visually, if we are engaged in imagination we create internal pictures that uses some of the bandwidth of the image processing parts of the brain. This may impede the ability to process real-world images.

This effect is significantly increased after drinking even a small amount of alcohol, which may dull our ability to attend.

Research

Simons and Chabris served participants drinks, which unbeknownst to the subjects either contained alcohol or did not.

After downing their drinks, the participants watched a 25-second video clip of six people playing with a ball. They were instructed to count the number of passes.

Halfway through the video, a person dressed in a gorilla suit ran through the game beating its chest.

Subjects who had consumed the alcoholic beverage were twice as likely to miss seeing the gorilla, even though it was onscreen for nearly a third of the test.

Example

A person driving whilst talking on a mobile phone misses a red light at a crossroads and has a serious accident.

If I look for red things, all red things seem to jump out at me. In doing so, I am less likely to notice green things.

So What?

Using it

To distract people away from one thing, get them to focus on something else thing. Giving them even a bit of alcohol increases this effect.

Defending

When people seem to be distracting you, look elsewhere to see what is happening.

See also

Elaboration Likelihood Model

References

Simons, D. J., & Chabris, C. F. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. Perception, 28, 1059-1074

Mack, A. and Rock, I. (2000). Inattentional Blindness, MIT Press

 

 

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