Though plenty of attention has fallen on the phenomenon of distracted driving lately, not as much focus has fallen on inattentional blindness. Despite that, this naturally occurring phenomenon contributes to crashes and safety concerns in numerous drivers.
Just what is inattentional blindness? Why is it dangerous, and how can you combat it?
What is inattentional blindness?
Very Well Mind takes a look at the psychological phenomenon called inattentional blindness. This happens when you focus so intently on one specific thing that you become “blind” to any of the surrounding details.
One study asked participants to count the number of times people in certain colored shirts passed a basketball. During this exercise, a man in a gorilla suit walked through the crowd, paused, and walked away again. A surprising number of participants did not ever notice the gorilla.
Inattentional blindness in driving
The same issue happens when driving. For example, a driver might overly-focus on the speed limit or how fast they are going. In doing so, they might miss another crucial thing, such as an animal crossing the street or an upcoming red light.
This phenomenon is a natural way of the mind sorting out important details from the unimportant ones. Because of this, it is a hard thing to combat. Even expert drivers or people who have driven for decades may still sometimes fall prey to the phenomenon.
Thus, it is important to simply understand what it is and recognize the signs that it is happening. If you notice your attention drifting too strongly to one particular thing, rope it back in and spread it out again.