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Focusing on One Thing May Blind People to the Obvious
Date:4/20/2011

the basketball passes right for their results to be analyzed.

According to the report, 58 percent of the students noticed the gorilla, while the rest did not. Among those who accurately counted the number of passes of the ball, 67 percent of those with high working-memory capacity noticed the gorilla, but only 36 percent of those with low working-memory capacity did.

In other words, people with a high working-memory capacity are not only better at focusing their attention; they are better able to switch the focus of their attention and multitask when necessary, the researchers explained.

The findings may explain why some people are more prone to inattention blindness than others.

The study is scheduled for publication in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.

Study co-author Jason Watson, assistant professor of psychology, said: "The potential implications are that if we are all paying attention as we are driving, some individuals may have enough extra flexibility in their attention to notice distractions that could cause accidents."

But, he continued, "that doesn't mean people ought to be self-distracting by talking on a cell phone while driving -- even if they have better control over their attention. Our prior research has shown that very few individuals [only 2.5 percent] are capable of handling driving and talking on a cell phone without impairment."

More information

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has details about driver distraction.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: University of Utah, news release, April 18, 2011


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