Notice anything unusual? If not, you may have 'inattention blindness'

Do YOU notice anything unusual in this video? If not, you might suffer from ‘inattentional blindness’

  • New York University has recreated the classic ‘invisible gorilla’ test from 1999 
  • People were more likely to spot a fast-moving strange object than a slower one
  • Experts suggest this may stem back to our primal predator-detecting instincts 

For many of us, hazard perception was one of the more fun and less nerve-wracking parts of the driving test.

But if spotting the unexpected doesn’t fall within your skillset, scientists warn you may experience ‘inattentional blindness’.

Researchers at New York University (NYU) have recreated the classic ‘invisible gorilla test’ from over 20 years ago in an effort to understand our capabilities.

More than 1,500 participants were shown unsuspecting footage of six people  throwing two basketballs between them.

While viewers were asked to simply count how many times those wearing white pass the ball, this was not the real test at all.

Instead, scientists were keen to know whether participants spotted the unexpected gorilla running through the crowd.

What is inattentional blindness? 

Inattentional blindness is a phenomenon that occurs when a change in your line of sight is introduced and you don’t notice it.

It can occur because of our narrowly focused attention span. 

For instance, at this very moment, your attention is on this  specific sentence. You may perhaps not realise others thing around you in the room are changing.

It’s largely interpreted as a ‘cognitive deficit’ that has been previously cited as a reason for why people at the scene of a crime may not have actually witnessed it. 

‘For decades, it’s been thought that when we’re intently focused on something relevant, like driving or playing a game, we fail to spot something that unexpectedly enters our field of vision, even if it is clearly visible and moving,’ said the lead author Pascal Wallisch, a clinical associate professor at New York University.

‘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. However, our research confirms that we are indeed less adept at noticing these same objects when they are moving slowly.’

The phenomenon of inattentional blindness refers to an inability to notice unexpected objects when focused on a specific task. 

It’s largely perceived as a ‘cognitive deficit’ that has been previously cited as a reason why people at the scene of a crime may not have witnessed it.

NYU sought to learn more about the nature of this through various experiments, including a modernised version of the 1999 gorilla test.

This time, scientists examined whether gorilla speed changed the result – a condition that was not tested within the original experiment.

Meanwhile, 3,000 other participants were subjected to a different test with the same principles.

Researchers at New York University (NYU) have recreated the bizarre ‘invisible gorilla test’ from more than 20 years ago to examine the capabilities of participants

This involved counting how many random dots moved across a central line while an unexpected moving object (UMO) also went across the screen at various speeds.

In both studies it was clear that participants were likely to spot the gorilla or UMO when it was moving faster.

Researchers suggest this ability may be linked to our most primal instincts, with organisms more alert to fast-moving, attacking predators.

‘Our findings…contribute to the ongoing debate on the impact of physical salience on inattentional blindness, suggesting that it is fast speeds specifically, not the physical salience of a feature more generally, that captures attention,’ Professor Wallisch continued.

‘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.’ 

READ MORE: Policeman who claimed he didn’t see assault may have fallen victim to ‘inattentional blindness’ 

In 1995 a Boston police officer was prosecuted for perjury after he claimed not to have seen a brutal assault while he was running after a suspect.

Now scientists say the policeman’s story is very plausible and could be a case of ‘inattentional blindness.’

Psychology professors Christopher Chabris from Union College and Daniel Simons from the University of Illinois re-created some of the conditions of the original incident.

They asked students to follow a research on a three-minute run around the college campus. They had to keep a steady distance and were asked to count the number of times he touched his head.

On the way, the subjects passed a staged fight about 26 feet off the pathway they were using.

‘Two students were beating up a third, and they were kicking and punching and yelling and coughing,’ Professor Chabris said.

Despite the chaos, most runners missed the incident when running in the dark.

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