New insight on inattentional blindness

Researchers have examined the inability of humans to notice unexpected objects if their attention is focused elsewhere

green eye
Pixabay/Rudy and Peter Skitterians

New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has provided new insight on the phenomena of inattentional blindness.

Scientists found that observers can notice unexpected objects while focusing on another task if the objects are moving fast.

This contradicts the traditional assumption that a viewer will fail to notice something that unexpectedly enters their field of vision if they are concentrating on another activity – for example, driving or playing a game.

Study author, Pascal Wallisch, of New York University, shared: “Our study questions the generality of this view because it shows that people, while focusing on a task, are quite capable of noticing unexpected objects that are moving quickly.”

He added that the research confirms that people are less adept at noticing objects when they are moving slowly.

The concept of inattentional blindness gained prominence in the 1990s through the ‘invisible gorilla experiment’ – where participants watching a video of students playing basketball did not notice someone in a gorilla outfit because they were concentrating on counting the number of passes between players wearing white shirts.

The authors highlighted that this new understanding of inattentional blindness have evolutionary implications.

“Fast-moving, unexpected objects seem to override the task focus of an organism. This will allow it to notice and react to the new potential threat, improving chances of survival,” Wallisch explained.