Also related to this is the phenomena of blind people who later in life gain sight. Their processing of the visual stimuli does not allow them to identify objects easily, effectively they can see but are still perceptually blind.
The most well known study demonstrating inattentional blindness was conducted by Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University. Their study, a contemporized version of earlier studies conducted by Ulric Neisser , asked subjects to watch a short video in which two groups of people (wearing black and white t-shirts) pass a basketball back among themselves. The subjects are told to either count the number of passes made by one of the teams, or to keep count of bounce passes vs. aerial passes. In different versions of the video a woman walks through the scene carrying an umbrella, or wearing a full gorilla suit. In one version the woman in the gorilla suit even stops in the middle, faces the camera, and pounds her chest before walking out of the scene. After watching the video the subjects are asked if they saw anything out of the ordinary take place. In most groups 50% of the subjects did not report seeing the gorilla. Simons interprets this by stating that we are mistaken with regard to how important events will automatically draw our attention away from current tasks or goals. This result indicates that the relationship between what is in our visual field and perception is based much more significantly on attention than was previously thought.
Another experiment was carried out by Steve Most, Chabis and Scholl. They had objects moving randomly on a computer screen. Participants were instructed to attend to the black objects and ignore the white, or vice versa. After several trials, a red cross unexpectedly appeared and traveled across the display, remaining on the computer screen for five seconds. The results of the experiment showed that even though the cross was distinctive from the black and white objects both in color and shape, about a third of participants nonetheless missed it. They had found that people may be attentionally tuned to certain perceptual dimensions, such as brightness or shape.
A matter of perception: why lifeguards sometimes fail to see victims on the bottom of the pool.(Risk Management)
Nov 01, 2004; It's a question that has haunted the industry for years: How can diligent, vigilant and well-trained lifeguards miss so many...