Inattentional Bias

When was the last time you looked for those spectacles resting on your nose? 😬

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve looked for something all over the place only to find it right under my nose. The learning, almost every single time – “You see what (or where) you seek”.

Inspired by one of the most famous studies in attention research, the Invisible Gorilla study (link in comments), researchers at Harvard Medical School conducted a similar study. This time with a group of people who typically spend hours reading and ‘searching’ images in dark rooms- Radiologists.

They took a picture of a man in a gorilla suit shaking his fist and superimposed that image on a series of slides that radiologists typically look at when they’re searching for cancer. They then asked a bunch of radiologists to review the slides of lungs for cancerous nodules. They wanted to see if they would notice a gorilla looking at them from inside the slide.

The result- 83 percent of the radiologists missed it!

Researchers wondered if somehow being so well-trained in searching would make them immune to missing large, hairy gorillas.

That effect is called “inattentional blindness”.

The problem was in the way their brains had framed what they were doing. They were looking for cancer nodules, not gorillas.

The learning- what we’re focused on filters the world around us so aggressively that it literally shapes what we see. This is true of radiologists, people looking for terrorist activity, or coders looking for bugs. What you look for will determine what you see and don’t see.

Relatable? 😊

Image Credits: NPR

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