Inattentional Blindness!

ON THE TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS October 8, 2012 #405 Coming up next…” Inattentional Blindness”

After further review… Inattentional blindness? Huh? What’s that, and what’s it got to with sports”? Inattentional blindness is what magicians use to successfully perform their tricks of magic. It’s as old as Houdini himself; I was going to say “as old as Giovanni Livera (the best magician/speaker I know,” but Gio’s not that old). Inattentional blindness diverts our attention elsewhere, even if our eyes never look away. Have you ever sat close enough and watched intently as magic was performed “right before your very eyes”? Your eyes never wavered, but you still couldn’t figure out how the magician accomplished his feat. When I once asked Gio, “How’d you do that?” He responded “Very well”—his pledge to secrecy.

Some may refer to magicians’ tricks as “misdirection”. Maybe so, but inattentional blindness is not the same. Misdirection causes you to look at a new subject. Inattentional blindness is a phenomenon that explains how one can fail to perceive what one is looking directly at. So, what’s the sports connection?

 This is my take on that replacement official’s call in that MNF game between Green Bay and Seattle:   Just prior to that “simultaneous catch” there was an obvious offensive pass interference committed by the Seattle receiver. Now I’m certain that the official whose responsibility was to call that OPI foul knows what offensive pass interference is, and probably has called it many times. He was looking right at it, but didn’t see it. Several thousand viewers saw it. So why couldn’t the official?   Inattentional blindness. Eyes and attention were in two different places. BTW, had that OPI foul been called, the play and the game would have been over, along with any controversy about the winner.

A lingering question is how do we, in our daily lives, avoid inattentional blindness? For example, talking on one’s cell phone-Bluetooth or otherwise-while driving “is dangerous because it misdirects our attention so that we fail to register what is happening right before our eyes,” says journalist Alex Stone. United focus–eyes, mind, and body—enable us to overcome the splintered perception that can lead to the kinds of mistakes we saw in the Green Bay/Seattle game. Incidentally, what distracted that official’s attention—not his eyes—is yet to be known. In fact, he probably doesn’t know.

Will you direct your attention to the important things that are right in front of you?

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