Inattentional Blindness Makes You Blind To The Unexpected

There are 32 coffee mugs in the image below, but did you notice that one of the coffee drinkers is a gorilla? If not, blame inattentional blindness. As it turns out, your mind is capable of making unexpected objects invisible right before your very eyes.

Also called the "monkey business illusion," inattentional blindness refers to our inability to see objects if they're not the primary focus of our attention. According to a 2012 Smithsonian Magazine article by Experimental Psychologist Daniel Simons, "We consciously see only a small subset of our visual world, and when our attention is focused on one thing, we fail to notice other, unexpected things around us—including those we might want to see."

Simons's original Selective Attention Test video in 1999 became an internet sensation. This video begins by requesting viewers to count the number of times three basketball players pass the ball. Thirty seconds in, a woman in a gorilla suit saunters through the video, stopping to beat her chest before she walks away. Half of the viewers missed her completely. The unexpected appearance of the gorilla is what differentiates inattentional blindness from other failures of awareness due to distraction or attentional failures.

This phenomenon brings greater issues into question. For example, just how reliable are eyewitness testimonies? It's possible, even probable, that witnesses are unable to focus on the full picture during a crime scene. Inattentional blindness studies are uncovering the very real limitations of our attention.

Learn more about inattentional blindness and watch examples in the videos below.

Inattentional Blindness, The Basics

What is all of this "inattentional blindness" business about? Get a brief overview here.

Discover Inattentional Blindess By Watching Double Dutch

Meet the Brain Games Double Dutch team, here to teach you a thing or two about Inattentional Blindess. Can you count how many times the green team jumps?

All About Attention

Flex your attention skills while learning about cognitive science phenomenons, such as selective attention, inattentional blindess, and more. Remember: pay attention!

Written by Curiosity Staff November 3, 2016

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