I was walking around campus a few days ago and I was in a bit of a hurry. I was eagerly anticipating the red hand to change to a white pedestrian so I could cross the street. The change occurred and I began to walk across. Then a loud "honk" made me jump. I walked right into a car that was about to turn right. The car was in the crosswalk, but I still ran right into it. After I finished crossing the street, I asked myself, "where did that car come from?" The answer is inattentional blindness. Inattentional blindness is defined in our textbook as the "failure to detect stimuli that are in plain sight when our attention is focused elsewhere." (pg. 130) This phenomenon is closely related to and often confused with change blindness. Change blindness is the failure to detect obvious changes in our environment. For example, the book uses the example of airline pilots and whether airborne pilots notice another plane on the runway while they are about to land. The difference between the phenomena is that nothing changes in a person's environment with inattentional blindness. Rather, we perceive that our environment changed. However, our eyes never focused on the obvious object because we were focused elsewhere. Inattentional blindness can be very dangerous if it isn't managed properly. A perfect example of this would be driving a car. Many car accidents are due to a driver's inattentional blindness to other cars. A driver can become too focused on their side and rear-view mirrors and pay no attention to what is going on in front of them. So next time you are driving, make sure to keep an eye out for the obvious, because even the best of us miss it from time to time.
Where Did That Car Come From?
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