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Inattentional blindness and car accidents: Unseen dangers

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2023 | Car Accidents |

All kinds of things can contribute to car accidents – including a cognitive phenomenon known as “inattentional blindness.”

Inattentional blindness involves a situation where drivers fail to notice unexpected objects or events (like pedestrians or motorcycles) in their field of vision because that’s simply not where their minds are focused.

In other words, someone can have so much of their attention on one thing that they fail to notice something right in front of their eyes. For example, a driver who is in a hurry may have their mind so trained on the red light that’s keeping them from moving that they immediately dart forward when the light turns green – totally oblivious to the fact that another car hasn’t yet cleared the intersection or a pedestrian in the crosswalk hasn’t yet made it to the curb.

How serious is the problem?

Inattentional blindness isn’t fully understood. It could be a trick of memory or something to do with the way the human mind filters out anything it deems less important than other things. Whatever the cause, however, it’s a common problem.

A famous experiment illustrated how easily it can happen. Known as the “invisible gorilla test,” participants were asked to watch a group of people tossing a ball back and forth and count the passes. In the middle of the video, someone dressed in a gorilla costume strolled right through the scene – even turning to the camera and thumping their chest.

Roughly 50% of the test subjects never noticed the gorilla. Their minds were trained on what they had been told was important, so they simply didn’t process the gorilla they saw.

With all of the distractions of modern life, including the ever-increasing array of in-car entertainment systems and smartphones that are never far from reach, it can be tough for a driver to keep their eyes – and minds – on the road. If you end up in a wreck with a distracted driver, learning more about your legal rights can help protect your interests.