change blindness

Change blindness is the phenomenon that we are blind to change if we are not specifically paying attention to it.

For example, if you are checking into a hotel and are not paying attention to the identity of the person checking you in, then the person can be switched without your knowledge. In your mind, the person behind the counter is 'just another person' and thus that person is interchangeable with any other person of the same type ( ' just another one ' ).

Change blindness is the result of the nature of short term memory. STM holds only what we are currently paying attention to. If we're not paying attention to it, it doesn't enter STM and therefore we don't notice it change.

It's true that our nervous system is biased to notice change. But here is one limitation of that: our nervous system is only biased to notice change in things already noticed. See habituation. If you don't notice it in the first place, it doesn't exist, or, at best, is defined in your awareness as a generic object of a type. See generalization.

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Categories: attention psychology