Change blindness tests

It’s remarkably difficult for us to perceive change, because of the relative poverty of the brain’s processing power compared to the sheer volume of information is has to deal with. This causes a failure to notice changes that we might think would be obvious, and so we consistently over-estimate our ability to detect change.

This, I argue, in Living as a River, is one of the reasons we think that we have a static self. If we can’t notice something “obvious” changing, like a building being there one minute and gone the next, how are we going to appreciate less tangible changes on our own being?

Here are a few examples showing how hard it is to detect change. In each of these movies, two photographs will alternate, separated by a blank slide. It’s surprising how many times we have to compare the two photographs before we can see the change. (Warning: these photographs are strobe-like. They give me headaches and I’d hate someone with epilepsy to have a seizure as a result of viewing them).

Helicopter and truck

Fascinating, isn’t it?

You can see more of these examples here.

4 Replies to “Change blindness tests”

  1. I couldn’t spot the difference in the first two examples until I used the pause button and took them at my own speed, so to speak. The third one was easier for some reason, I got it without having to stop it. Very interesting. It’s very true that we often see only what we expect to see – I think that’s why crossing the road in a country where they drive on the other side of the road is so dangerous.

  2. Your mentioning traffic makes me think of the number of times cyclists have been injured because car drivers just haven’t seen them. If a driver doesn’t expect to see a cyclist the cyclist may become invisible.

  3. Hi Bodhipaksha,

    This is great stuff. I’ve been impressed for many years at the ability of the senses to pick up far more than we think they can – when we attenuate the inner storyteller, we see very much more than ‘meets the eye.’ I’m reminded both of the Dharma Eye, which emerges when you ‘see’ impermanence – as well as that old goat Carlos Castaneda’s comments regarding the ability of the ‘physical’ senses to go beyond themselves. Thanks Bodhipaksha!

    J. Sean Durham

  4. Hi Sean,

    Did you check out the post on “The Inner Zombie”? It shows that although we can’t consciously process all the information that’s coming in through our senses, a lot of processing goes on outside of conscious awareness. We even — again completely unconsciously — make decisions based on that unconsciously perceived data. Where is “the self” in all this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.