When Good Observers Go Bad: Change Blindness, Inattentional Blindness, and Visual Experience

Rensink, Ronald A. (2000) When Good Observers Go Bad: Change Blindness, Inattentional Blindness, and Visual Experience. [Journal (On-line/Unpaginated)]

Full text available as:



Several studies (e.g., Becklen & Cervone, 1983; Mack & Rock, 1998; Neisser & Becklen, 1975) have found that observers attending to a particular object or event often fail to report the presence of unexpected items. This has been interpreted as inattentional blindness (IB), a failure to see unattended items (Mack & Rock, 1998). Meanwhile, other studies (e.g., Pashler, 1988; Phillips, 1974; Rensink et al., 1997; Simons, 1996) have found that observers often fail to report the presence of large changes in a display when these changes occur simultaneously with a transient such as an eye movement or flash of the display. This has been interpreted as change blindness (CB), a failure to see unattended changes (Rensink et al., 1997). In both cases there is a striking failure to report an object or event that would be quite visible under other circumstances. And in both cases there is a widespread (although not universal) belief that the underlying cause has to do with the absence of attention. The question then arises as to how these effects might be related. Is CB the same thing as IB? If not, what is the relation between them? And given that these phenomena deal with failures of subjective perception, what can they teach us about the nature of our visual experience? In particular, what can they teach us about the role played by visual attention?

Item Type:Journal (On-line/Unpaginated)
Keywords:visual attention; inattentional blindness; change blindness; visual memory; perceptual experience; neural correlate of consciousness (NCC); implicit perception
Subjects:Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Psychology > Perceptual Cognitive Psychology
Philosophy > Philosophy of Mind
ID Code:1050
Deposited By:Rensink, Ronald A.
Deposited On:20 Oct 2000
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

References in Article

Select the SEEK icon to attempt to find the referenced article. If it does not appear to be in cogprints you will be forwarded to the paracite service. Poorly formated references will probably not work.

Becklen, R., & Cervone, D. (1983). Selective looking and the noticing of unexpected events. Memory & Cognition, 11, 601-608.

Braun, J., and Sagi, D. (1990). Vision outside the focus of attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 48, 45-58.

Crick, F. & Koch, C. (1998). Consciousness and neuroscience. Cerebral Cortex, 8: 97-107.

Dennett, D.C. (1991). Consciousness Explained. Boston : Little, Brown and Co.

Fernandez-Duque, D., & Thornton, I.M. (2000). Change detection without awareness: Do explicit reports underestimate the representation of change in the visual system. Visual Cognition, 7, 324-344.

Haines, R.F. (1991). A breakdown in simultaneous information processing. In G. Obrecht and L. Stark (eds.), Presbyopia Research. (pp. 171-175). New York : Plenum.

Holender, D. (1986). Semantic activation without conscious identification in dichotic listening, parafoveal vision, and visual masking: A survey and appraisal. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9, 1-23.

Iwasaki, S. (1993). Spatial attention and two modes of visual consciousness. Cognition, 49, 211-233.

Levin, D.T., and Simons, D.J. (1997). Failure to detect changes to attended objects in motion pictures. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 4, 501-506.Mack, A., & Rock, I. (1998). Inattentional Blindness. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Moore, C.M., & Egeth, H. (1997). Perception without attention: Evidence of grouping under conditions of inattention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 23, 339-352.

Most, S.B., Simons, D.J., Scholl, B.J., Jimenez, R., Clifford, E., & Chabris, C.F. (in press). How not to be seen: The contribution of similarity and selective ignoring to sustained inattentional blindness. Psychological Science.

Neisser, U., & Becklen, R. (1975). Selective looking: Attending to visually significant events. Cognitive Psychology, 7, 480-494.

Pashler, H.E. (1988). Familiarity and visual change detection. Perception & Psychophysics, 44, 369-378.

Phillips, W.A. (1974). On the distinction between sensory storage and short-term visual memory. Perception & Psychophysics, 16, 283-290.

Rensink, R.A. (2000a). The dynamic representation of scenes. Visual Cognition, 7, 17-42.

Rensink, R.A. (2000b). Seeing, sensing, and scrutinizing. Vision Research, 40, 1469-1487.

Rensink, R.A. (2000c). Visual search for change: A probe into the nature of attentional processing. Visual Cognition, 7, 345-376.

Rensink, R.A., O'Regan, J.K., and Clark, J.J. (1997). To see or not to see: The need for attention to perceive changes in scenes. Psychological Science, 8, 368-373.

Scholl, B.J. (2000). Attenuated change blindness for exogenously attended items in a flicker paradigm. Visual Cognition, 7, 377-396.

Simons, D.J. (1996). In sight, out of mind: When object representations fail. Psychological Science, 7, 301-305.

Simons, D.J. (2000a). Current approaches to change blindness. Visual Cognition, 7, 1-15.

Simons, D.J. (2000b). Attentional capture and inattentional blindness. Current Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4, 147-155.

Simons, D.J., & Chabris, C.F. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. Perception, 28, 1059-1074.

Wolfe, J.M. (1999). Inattentional amnesia. In V. Coltheart (Ed.), Fleeting Memories. (pp. 71-94). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Repository Staff Only: item control page