Friday, August 30, 2013

Inattentional Blindness


Pretty much everyone has seen a picture of Adam and Eve, either in books, on the Television, or the Internet.  If you look at any picture of Adam and Eve, there's something that doesn't make any sense.  

They all have belly buttons.

Now, unless God supposedly had a uterus and someone's omitted this fact from all current religious texts, what we have here is an example of something that most people fail to notice, yet is so fundamentally wrong with the known story that it should stick out like a sore thumb.

People are fixated on the pictures, the quality of the imagery, the faces, whether there's a snake or an apple, or a fig leaf.  The navel's however, are front and centre every time and yet nobody sees this.  

Believe it or not, this inconsistency actually annoys me. I just can't let it drop.

When you don't notice things, psychologists call this "inattentional blindness".  Whether you have learned to block certain stuff out, or just fail to notice things, you need to be paying attention in order to get annoyed.  However, there's a good side to to all this annoyance.  If you are paying attention and get annoyed by what's trying to steamroll over you, you are also likely to fix it.  You'll notice a correlation between emergency planners, for instance, and their ability to spot things that normal people can't see.

Another angle to this inattentional blindness is expectation:  When people expect certain outcomes, they block out certain stimuli.  For example, if a person is looking for a friend in a crowd and knows they have a red jacket, they're more likely to look for people wearing red rather than trying to see the actual person's head - which is then totally negated when the friend has removed their jacket to expose a yellow sweater, even though their head remains unchanged.  The person looking for the other person might walk straight past them.

This problem of expectation causes many people to appear to "switch off".  Ask them about their commute to work and most people say it's the same every day and rather uneventful.  Yet, I commute to work every day and see new people at the subway station, hear different noises on the subway train, experience different crowds at my destination.

And yes, I get annoyed by a lot of things I see along the way. Ha ha!