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Because you’re sharing the road with automobile drivers, you should know about “inattentional blindness.” It’s a special concern during heavy rush-hour traffic, but it applies under any traffic conditions.
Inattentional blindness, or perceptual blindness, is what makes sleight-of-hand tricks work. It has nothing to do with physical blindness or even with poor eyesight. It comes into play during the day or at night. It’s psychological, but it’s real—often tragically real.
Inattentional blindness occurs when a person doesn’t see something that’s in plain sight, but wasn’t what the person expected to see and when their attention is engaged elsewhere. For example, in one experiment on inattentional blindness, participants were asked to watch a film of a basketball game and count the baskets. After they’d seen the film, over half the participants said they hadn’t seen anything unusual. But, during the film a woman dressed in a gorilla suit walked in, turned to the camera, did that gorilla thump on her chest, and walked off!
Inattentional blindness is often a good thing. It is an efficient way to use our mental energy by concentrating on what’s important at the moment and expecting the rest of the world to behave as it usually does. It’s similar to the reason you can read ths. We see what we expect to see. And we don’t see what we don’t expect to see.
Here’s an example that’s more important than a gorilla at a basketball game: When drivers come to an unmarked intersection, they expect to see a car or a truck. It’s quite likely that they won’t see a motorcycle at all. And that can have tragic consequences.
Remember the saying, “Ride as though you’re invisible.” You can also up your odds of being visible by wearing neon colors like orange, yellow, or green. Those colors are used for traffic cones and worn by highway workers, so drivers are used to seeing them on the road, paying attention, and driving more carefully.
Stay safe out there!