The shocking truth

of our limited attention

3

 

The video below provides shocking proof of our limited attention. It shows that, when not paying attention, we see things that aren’t there. This flashed face distortion effect was only discovered recently.

We know that our attention is limited.

You’ve probably seen one of the videos with the gorilla and basketball players. If not, here is one. Skoda uses a similar technique in a clever tv-spot. These rather funny clips remind us that when we don’t pay attention, there are things that we miss entirely. So don’t use your smartphone while driving!

The reality is even more frightening.

When not paying attention, not only do we miss things, our mind makes up entirely different things than what is actually there. Look at the following video and follow the instructions: focus on the dot while the faces change. You will notice that the faces become weird. Then look at the faces,…  and then back at the dot.

 

This video is a rare case where this frightening aspect of our brain can be observed: Everything that is not within our direct focus can be grossly distorted by our brain: we see things that aren’t there or see things totally differently. You’ve probably experienced this too: in the corner of your eye you see an insect crawling on the floor. You look at it only to discover that it’s not an insect, but just a piece of dirt or a stain. You could have sworn that you saw it moving, but of course you know it couldn’t have. Your brain has seen something that wasn’t there.

These monsters are not just another optical illusion.

When we focus on the dot the faces become like monster caricatures. This effect was first described by Jason M Tangen, Sean C Murphy, and Matthew B Thompson. You’ll find their article here. To date there is not a full scientific explanation yet.

This video is a rare case where this frightening aspect of our brain can be observed: Everything that is not within our direct focus can be grossly distorted by our brain: we see things that aren’t there or see things totally differently. You’ve probably experienced this too: in the corner of your eye you see an insect crawling on the floor. You look at it only to discover that it’s not an insect, but just a piece of dirt or a stain. You could have sworn that you saw it moving, but of course you know it couldn’t have. Your brain has seen something that wasn’t there.

It happens all the time.

The thing is that this happens every second of our lives. Only we are not aware of it. And it happens with all our senses. When someone is talking and you are not really paying attention there is a probability that you’ll hear something totally different than what the person actually says. “No I haven’t said that, you haven’t been listening,… “ happens all of the time. It’s not that we haven’t really been listening, but our attention was somewhere else and our brain distorted what it heard.

This isn’t only the case with visual or auditive attention, but also with mental attention. Just try to scan the starlit sky for meteors. You will notice that when your mind is totally focused on finding the specific visual input of a moving star, it becomes virtually impossible to think of anything else. And when you start thinking of something else, you’ll start to miss meteors and even see meteors that aren’t there.

When our mind is busy, we see and hear things completely differently.  Just think what that means when someone is talking in the boardroom or at the family table while you are scanning mails on your smartphone …

This is what our mind sees

This is what our mind makes us believe it sees

Attention is the most scarce and valuable resource in the 21st century. At To The Point At Work we believe that managing attention is key to business success. Read more about how TLSM solves attention issues in business communication.

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares