Change Blindness: a Literature Review on Attention

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Change Blindness: A Literature Review on Attention
When going about our daily lives, just how much are we missing of the things around us? Visual attention has fascinated psychologists and now research is being carried out to distinguish to what extent, our attention or the absence of it, can affect our day-to-day lives. Change blindness is something we all experience at some point, some more than others. By definition it refers to the failure a person has to notice a change that would otherwise seem obvious when pointed out. (Watson, Leekam, Connolly, Collis, Findlay, McConachie & Rodgers, 2012). Researchers believe there are a few different causes for this such as altered position, eye movements, a visual obstruction or in the interest to us, the lack of attention. Where visual attention is applied to a particular space, an accurate detection of specific features can be expected. However, in the absence of spatial attention, details are more likely to be incorrect or missed entirely. (Utochkin, 2011). We can be made aware of this phenomenon by using many different detection paradigms. One of the most common of these used when researching change detection is the flicker paradigm. I shall be looking at several different research reviews highlighting the way in which the change blindness can be measured through change detection using the flicker paradigm, and how this can be associated with attention.

Change blindness is one of the most researched paradigms of visual attention. Although it has only been within the last decade that psychologists have become increasingly more interested in this phenomenon, the first mentioning of change blindness can be traced as far back as the 1890’s. Although people were aware, most research or true understanding of its relevance to visual attention in psychology did not really begin until the 1980’s. Despite the lack of knowledge of its technical term, many of us are more aware of the ways we can detect change blindness than we think. While testing using the flicker test is a little different to the other more common ways it is presented to us, a similar idea is used even amongst children. I’m sure we can all recall the spot-the-difference puzzles, which usually compare two pictures, and a number of small things changed. When searching for the differences we are in fact using the same methods used in the flicker test for change blindness. In our everyday lives it is quite common to encounter this phenomenon. Caplovitz, Fendrich & Hughes give an ordinary example of when a person is rushing to work and cannot find their keys. (2008). Often they appear right in front of the person in an obvious place, yet due to the lack of attention on looking for them and being distracted by being late, they completely miss them. Psychologists believe there are a few reasons that this can occur. When changing the position a person views the object from, angles and focus can alter the way in which we perceive our surroundings. Another cause that is studied by psychologists is the eye movements demonstrating the visual processing taking place. When in a hurry, we may not be processing our view as we usually would when given the time. A similar cause would be a visual obstruction. Here the view may appear to be altered by something in the way even if only for a brief amount of time. However, in the case of this research, we can focus on how the lack of visual attention can cause us to overlook or simply not see what is right in front of us.

Researchers can test for change blindness through a variety of different detection paradigms. The most common of these is the flicker paradigm. Rensink et al. developed a change detection experiment using this particular paradigm and explain it as “an original image A repeatedly alternates with a modified image A', with brief blank fields placed between successive images.” (1997). When a change has been perceived by the viewer, they are asked to hit a key...
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