(CHICAGO) -- Have you ever been so deeply involved in a dinner conversation that you completely fail to notice that the server is standing right next to you, patiently waiting to take your order?
Failing to see something in plain sight because your attention is focused elsewhere is called “inattentional blindness.”
A police officer was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 1995 because he testified to not seeing a brutal beating by which he ran while chasing a murder suspect. The prosecution claimed that he must have seen it and was therefore lying under oath.
However, the authors of a University of Illinois study published in i-Perception recreated the circumstances of the pursuit to see if the officer’s claims of not seeing anything were possible as a result of inattentional blindness. They found that indeed, they were.
The authors found that of the 20 study participants, 66 percent missed the fight if the experiment was conducted at night. The authors also ran the experiment during daytime and even then, over 40 percent of the participants missed the fight.
The authors conclude that although “we can’t say with certainty that Conley [the police officer] didn’t see the fight…the study shows that even under less demanding conditions than he must have experienced, it’s possible to miss something as obvious as a fight."
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