Friday, January 11, 2008
There’s been a fair bit of research conducted into “perceptual blindness”. The studies confirm that when people are focused on a very specific thing (e.g. playing Sudoku), they often fail to notice an otherwise obvious thing (e.g. playing Sudoku is annoying to other people). These studies explain why motorists drive over cyclists, train drivers smash into cars, etc, etc. But here is perhaps a better example:
Shelley and I were driving just outside of Canterbury last week when we passed a tall fence with shiny razor wire running down its length. Now, this fence was pretty formidable, and must have been a couple of hundred metres long, so it wasn’t exactly fleeting.
“Was that a prison?” I asked Shelley once we had passed it.
“No, a prison.”
“Oh, I’m not sure. I missed it; I thought you were talking about the man with the moustache.”
Makes you think, doesn’t it. That Parisian was standing there the whole time and I just didn’t see him.