Monday, October 31, 2011

Innattentional Blindness and Ghosts - Happy Halloween!

I was happy to find a Halloween-themed article by Daniel Simons in my RSS feed this morning: In his latest post, "Ghost busters, parapsychology, and the first study of inattentional blindness", Simons writes about discovering a very early study about innattentional blindness in a book by Mary Roach (Roach's books are all great, by the way. I think "Stiff" is my favorite). In 1959, a psychologist (at Cambridge decided to test how people would react to seeing a ghost on campus:

"Each night, Cornell or his assistants dressed in a white sheet and strolled down a path, making various hand gestures before shedding the sheet 4.5 minutes later. Other assistants observed how many people were “in a position to observe the apparition.”

Simons points out that "Although Cornell’s finding is consistent with later studies of inattentional blindness, his conclusion isn’t." Hardly anyone on campus admitted to seeing the "apparition", which Cornell attributed to an unconscious desire to NOT see a ghost. This finding is actually very consistent with Simons' and others' findings about innattentional blindness (and the invisible gorilla!).

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope all your costumes and fun Halloween surprises are noticed by all the bystanders :)

image credit: - some rights reserved via CreativeCommons

posted by Rob McEntarffer

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