Monday, July 31, 2023

The visible gorilla.

A staple of my lectures in the 1990s was showing the ‘invisible gorilla’ video, in which viewers were asked to count the number of times that students with white shirts passed a basket ball. After the start of the game a student in a gorilla costume walks slowly through the group, pauses in the middle to wave and moves off screen to the left. Most viewers who are busy counting the ball passes don’t report seeing the gorilla. Here's the video:


Wallish et al. now update this experiment on inattentional blindness in an article titled "The visible gorilla: Unexpected fast—not physically salient—Objects are noticeable." Here are their summaries:  


Inattentional blindness, the inability to notice unexpected objects if attention is focused on a task, is one of the most striking phenomena in cognitive psychology. It is particularly surprising, in light of the research on attentional capture and motion perception, that human observers suffer from this effect even when the unexpected object is moving. Inattentional blindness is commonly interpreted as an inevitable cognitive deficit—the flip side of task focusing. We show that this interpretation is incomplete, as observers can balance the need to focus on task demands with the need to hedge for unexpected but potentially important objects by redeploying attention in response to fast motion. This finding is consistent with the perspective of a fundamentally competent agent who effectively operates in an uncertain world.
It is widely believed that observers can fail to notice clearly visible unattended objects, even if they are moving. Here, we created parametric tasks to test this belief and report the results of three high-powered experiments (total n = 4,493) indicating that this effect is strongly modulated by the speed of the unattended object. Specifically, fast—but not slow—objects are readily noticeable, whether they are attended or not. These results suggest that fast motion serves as a potent exogenous cue that overrides task-focused attention, showing that fast speeds, not long exposure duration or physical salience, strongly diminish inattentional blindness effects.

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