The video below tests your perceptual acuity. Listen carefully to the directions and then watch the video. (Note: if you think you’ve seen this video, you probably have not. It is a May 2010 sequel to the widely viewed 1999 selective attention test video that many of you probably have seen.)
How did you do? Miss anything? If you did, you are in good company. I, for one, counted the number of passes correctly but failed to see the gorilla in the 1999 version. And in this new version I missed the player in black dropping out. On a positive note: I did notice the color change!
Cognitive scientist Daniel Simons showed the video to 76 University of Illinois students. As reported in i-PERCEPTION, for those who had not seen the 1999 version, only 56% noticed the gorilla (23 out of 41). Just “11% of subjects noticed the curtain change, and 16% noticed the change to the number of players on the black team. Only 1 participant noticed both the curtain and the player change.”
Simons defines the phenomenon as inattentional blindness, “the failure to notice unusual and salient events in their visual world when attention is otherwise engaged and the events are unexpected.” In a Seed Magazine interview, he discusses the implications to our everyday life:
In inattentional blindness you’re not seeing something that’s right there because your attention is engaged. The most obvious practical application of that is driving. We intuitively think that if something important happens right in front of us, we will see it…Dan Levin has done studies where he just asked people, would you notice if something like this happens? He shows people the video, gives them the instructions, points out the gorilla, and then asks them “how likely would you be to notice the gorilla if you were doing this task and counting the passes?” Ninety percent of people say they’d notice. Regardless of how you ask that question, you get high confidence, and a high percentage saying “yeah, of course I’d notice that.”
That’s the intuition that’s interesting, and that’s the one that’s dangerous. If we were completely aware of these limits on attention, we wouldn’t do things like talking on cell phone while driving: We would know that it would make us just that much less likely to notice something. But we don’t have that insight into our own awareness. It’s only in that rare case where you actually have an accident that you become aware that you’ve missed something.
As Simon’s studies have demonstrated, we are all prone to innattentional blindness. What impact does it have on our problem solving? What salient events in our visual field are we missing, even though we are confident we are not? How often do we see what we are looking for and not what is there?
Science News reports on April 25, 2011 that a new study purports that multitaskers are better at spotting “invisible” Gorillas.