Apparently, I experience inattentional blindness, where I can be so focussed on something that I don’t see anything else, even if it’s right in front of me. And I thought I had attention deficit issues.
At work, there was a guest speaker who discussed the visual system and attention. To illustrate the effect of inattentional blindness, he said he would show a video. Before showing it, he told us that we needed to refrain from laughing and be as quiet as possible. The task was a counting one.
The video was pretty simple. There were 6 people, 3 wearing white shirts, and 3 wearing black shirts. Our task was to count the number of times the white-shirt people passed a basketball to each other.
It took a lot of concentration to follow the basketball-passing because all 6 people were weaving in and out, and the black-shirt folks were also passing their own basketball. Midway through the task, people in the crowd started laughing. I couldn’t see anything funny and wondered why they couldn’t follow the speaker’s instructions not to laugh.
Then the task was done. The speaker asked how many people saw the gorilla. Half the people in the room raised their hands. I was part of the half that did not see the gorilla. No wonder people were laughing. The speaker replayed the video and this time I clearly saw the gorilla walking into the midst of the 6 people, did a little motion, and walked off.
Wow! I was surprised at how focussed I was that I could miss the gorilla.
I wonder what this means.
Well, if you have ever felt ignored by me, don’t take it personally because I’m just too distracted by something else.