Even If You Don't Blink, You'll Miss It!
Reported November 2006
Much of what we see doesn't grab our attention, but what about gory and erotic images? Do they capture your attention? No surprise if they do, and certain images like those are so attention-grabbing that we are literally blinded.
"You can't focus on the new thing, and it just goes right by you; you don't process it," David Zald, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, tells Ivanhoe.
Scientists from Yale and Vanderbilt ran an experiment where they exposed people to regular, neutral pictures -- and mixed in gory and erotic ones. They found people literally could not see a picture that followed the graphic image -- although it was right in front of their face.
Dr. Zald says your brain cannot process anything you see for up to almost a second afterward -- no big deal in most situations, but consequences could be deadly if you're distracted while driving, on the battlefield, or while trying to recall key details for eye-witness testimony.
"It's not just that your reaction is limited," Dr. Zald says. "It's that you didn't even see the thing you needed to react to."
He found women were more fixated on gory images than erotic images and men more so with erotic ones -- something to keep in mind when you're on the road being bombarded by billboards. Ironically, "attentional rubbernecking" as it's called, is most common when driving past the scene of an accident. Even though drivers know they need to pay attention to the road, they canít help but be curious about what has happened.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
David Zald, Ph.D.
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Santa Monica, CA 90406
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Even If You Don't Blink -- You'll Miss It!
Much of what we see doesn't grab our attention. But certain images are so attention-grabbing that we are literally blinded.