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#80 - Inattentional Blindness

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Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Writing of the week

Do you know the experiment of Daniels Simons and Christopher Chabris? If you don't know it, watch this video before continuing: Link to the experiment on YouTube (2min).

Image Copyright: Jason Leung

This experiment was no nonsense, as they won the Nobel Prize in Psychology in 2004, being known as Inattentional Blindness or the invisible gorilla test.

We are so continually overloaded with stimuli that our cognitive capacity is so saturated that anything that is not part of the task is literally invisible to us. In the case of the experiment, it is such an effort to follow the ball that a gorilla looking at the camera goes unnoticed.

This experiment was repeated with clowns on unicycles to test the attention of a person using a mobile phone.

But how can we take this to a digital product? We could ponder what impact it might have, but one that comes to mind off the top of my head is consistency or Jakobs' Law. This law preaches that your users spend a lot of time on pages other than your own, so using common interaction patterns ensures that we comply with their mental models.

If the experiment finds that we suffer from blindness in the elements not necessary to accomplish the task, if we use non-standard or inconsistent elements, a user will not perceive them when trying to accomplish their goal, whatever it is; this already happens when we look for an element that has a visual aspect of another component.

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