Our sense of sight is very important to how we perceive and respond to the world around us. There are vision tests that tell us how well we see and others that tell us whether or not we are color blind.
But you can develop another kind of blindness that has nothing to do with the shadows you see.
The Change Blindness Test reveals if you are part of the 50% of the population who do not notice when something changes before their eyes.
This particular test was featured on TikTok by Dr. Steve Rathje.
The change blindness test is a way to determine how susceptible you are to witnessing change as it occurs, but failing to see the transformation. The results can be due to not paying attention, where your eyes are focused, or how well your memory is working.
In the video, Rathje shows a picture of his room and tells the viewers, “Can you tell me which things in this room are changing?” Before explaining that many things in the room are slowly changing or disappearing altogether.
Rathje then says that because the changes happen gradually, they are hard to detect and may happen right in front of us without noticing.
If you’re like most people in the comments, you either miss the changes, too much happened to notice them all, or you think that almost everything in the room has changed.
What is change blindness?
Variable blindness occurs when something different is introduced into your visual field and you fail to detect it. You may see an image flicker and never notice the drastic changes being made to it gradually.
The inability to detect these changes may be due to limitations in humans paying attention to multiple objects at once or to gradual changes in the image, and is the subject of much research.
There have been surprisingly many studies showing that people can be blind to change that occurs with and without a visual disturbance.
Why does change blindness occur?
Change blindness and its causes have been discussed since the nineteenth century when film editing was first introduced. The editors soon realized that viewers did not see changes in the backgrounds of the films they watched. Psychologist William James also wrote about change blindness in his 1890 book Principles of Psychology.
Research into this phenomenon is the result of other investigations into working memory and eye movements.
In a 1996 experiment, people watched scenes on a computer while changes were taking place. At the same time, she measured their eye movement. If the change and movement of the eyes coincided, the observers failed to notice it. This led the researchers to believe that they are related.
However, subsequent research using dim images has raised the possibility of working memory involvement. When the image flashed, the observers were unable to recall some of the details that would have made the changes obvious.
Inattentional blindness versus alteration blindness
With differing opinions attributing change blindness to inattention, eye movement, or working memory, it is important to understand the difference between developing inattentional blindness and true change blindness.
The inattentional blindness arose as a result of a test where subjects were asked to pass a basketball back and forth, counting the number of times it was passed. While shooting the video, someone in a gorilla suit walked through the circle of people passing the ball and a surprising number of them never noticed.
When separating inattentional blindness from variant blindness, it should be noted that because their primary focus is elsewhere, people with inattentional blindness miss out on major changes around them. Those who suffer from change blindness lose sight of changes in things as they happen in real time.
Dr. Steve Rathje demonstrates in this real-life experiment where a man is switched asking for directions.
Change blindness can also occur as a result of distraction, having expectations that differ from what you see, and visual manipulation.
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Of course, when we focus on the wrong thing, it’s hard to notice shifts in our peripheral vision.
When it comes to expectations, our minds tend to fill in the blanks when information is limited, causing us to miss out on changes. Then, there are manipulations like magic tricks and stunt doubles in the movies, which are meant to explicitly prevent us from detecting the changes.
Neri Osler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and the author of seven books. They cover lifestyle, entertainment, and news, as well as workplace mobility and social issues.