Tag Archives: change blindness

Test Your Awareness

A couple of years ago, my sister showed me a video on YouTube and I thought of it while we were learning about attention in class. Go ahead and take a look:

So? Did you see all 21 differences? Personally, the first time I saw the video, I saw NO changes at all. It was pathetic. Even after watching it multiple times, I wasn’t able to spot all the changes right away. The phenomenon that  is being demonstrated in this video is called change blindness. In our textbook, it is defined as “a pattern in which perceivers do not see, or take a long time to see, large-scale  changes in a visual stimulus” ( Reisberg, 2013).

It has always boggled my mind that things can be changing RIGHT in front of our eyes and we won’t notice a thing! To learn more about change blindness, I looked up one of the men, Ren Rensink, who did a study on this phenomenon that was mentioned in our textbook. In this video, Dr. Ron Rensink from the University of British Columbia, sits down for an interview and talks about change blindness and possible theories for how we are capable of missing such prominent changes. The main idea conveyed by change blindness is that a great deal of attention is needed to notice such changes in the environment.

Dr. Rensink says there are two parts to that are contributing to our change blindness and our limited attention, the first being how much is represented at a single moment. The amount of information that is represented to us daily is incredible. Any time our eyes are open, we are picking up visual stimuli. Our visual cortex works to create these images, making edges, shapes and colors visible to us, but attention is not necessary for our brain to do this.

The second part of change blindness is how much of those visual stimuli is being remembered, which does require attention. Dr. Rensink argues that the amount of visual stimuli we remember is very little. Imagine if we remembered every single thing we have ever seen! We can see a lot in life, but the amount of space used to store those visual pictures is limited in capacity.  Because our memory is limited in capacity, we are not able to remember one shot to the next, or at least the details of those shots, from the Whodunnit clip. For example, I personally didn’t notice that the size of Lady Smithe’s pot from one shot to the next changed dramatically from one shot to the next. This is not because I didn’t see the pot in the first place, but because I didn’t process the visual stimuli enough to physically remember it.

So how does this apply to real life situations? Change blindness happens every day in all different situations. If you watched to the end of the video, text flashes up that says, “It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for”. It brings up how dangerous change blindness could be while driving. After years of driving, it becomes such a ritualistic and almost mindless process that we begin to lose attention. THIS IS NOT OKAY. As shown by the change blindness phenomenon, we are all very susceptible to miss changes in our environment if we are being inattentive. While driving, this could lead to fatal consequences, so keep your eyes open, pay close attention, and take driving safety seriously!