In a study (published 17th July, 2013) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers have probed the ‘inattentional blindness’ phenomenon further. It seems that even experts in a field, when carrying out a routine task in their line of work, cannot notice the obvious, or even the absurd! 24 radiologists were asked to examine scans of patients’ lungs and search for nodules which were perhaps indicative of pathology (namely, carcinoma). They examined five scans with an average of ten nodules each, and on the last scan, an image of a gorilla, 48 times larger than the included nodules also appeared on the lung surface. Despite its obvious presence, the great majority (83%) of radiologists tested did not report seeing the gorilla.
Of course, it could be argued that this is down to radiologists being over-worked, or highly stressed, or, simply, incompetent. This is perhaps a ‘blinkered’ view of the situation, but one that must be considered. Perhaps what we perceive is a lot more influenced by what we are searching for, and what we expect to see than we might think, and that, far from seeing an objective representation of the world around us, the visual cortex unconsciously makes decisions to include or exclude things in the environment that it regards as more or less important to achieving a task. Even when an observer is experienced, or even expert at a task, spotting what is obvious might be a challenge for them, if it is very far from what they expect.
The idea that the brain lets us see a perhaps biased view of reality, and we see only what we expect to see is perhaps a sinister one, but it is perhaps a more potent mechanism of sensory noise filtration than was thought. In evolutionary terms, it is a waste of energy to pay attention to things which provide no relevant information, and so, more successful individuals are those who can selectively filter stimuli which provide information to enhance survival.
No matter how experienced you are, and no matter how hard you are concentrating, being unable to spot what is right in front of you is harder than you might think! Don't beat yourself up it happens to all of us.
- Become Mindful That These are Taking Place
- Make a Note of Where and When
- Make The Shift as Quick as Possible