Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Change Blindness: What Are You Paying Attention To?

Depending on what we focus on, our brains can be completely blind to obvious changes going on around us. This is called, “Change Blindness” and it is unnerving when you can easily see it. Here are a couple videos showing this in action. The first is an experiment conducted at Harvard where 75% of the people in the test don’t notice that the man in front of them has turned into another man. Below the Harvard experiment is a video of magician Derren Brown exploiting this blind spot we have in a much more dramatic way. Can you imagine a white male changing into an Asian female without noticing, right in front of you?

This is similar to “The Awareness Test” video I posted last year. What I always think of first when I see things like this is what are we failing to capture when observing people using the products we design? What do we don’t-know-we-don’t-know?

Direct link to Harvard's Change Blindness Experiment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38XO7ac9eSs

Derren Brown - Person Swap - The most amazing home videos are here

Direct link to Derren Brown's Person Swap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBPG_OBgTWg


Oliver Moorhouse said...

Interesting and funny. It seems that in these cases both changes were a change of state rather than of position or type of interaction. Also they were in situations where the expectations by the participants of a change of state were minimal. Or perhaps the participant is classifying the other person as just "person" rather than finding any aspect important. Are you aware of any other experiments that show a similar pattern for different types of changes?

Michael Grossman said...

Oliver, thanks for the insight. I think this is similar to "winnowing" or when people are quickly scanning for scent on a web page. This is a good reason for redundant content. The "Awareness Test" I put in the article is the only similar one I've come across so far.