When Experts Go Blind
Original story at Phenomena: Only Human • 4 mentions • 10 months ago
Phenomena: Only Human 10 months ago
The picture above is an X-ray computed tomography (CT) scan of a human lung. Go ahead and take a few seconds to look at it carefully.The image takes a starring role in a fun study in press at Psychological Science. Trafton Drew and colleagues at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that when people focus on searching these images for bright white cancer nodules, they never notice the gorilla. More shocking, radiologists — who are trained to read CT scans — usually miss it, too.“It’s a vivid example that looking at something and seeing it are different,” says Drew, a postdoctoral fellow in Jeremy Wolf’s lab. “You can put your eyes on something, but if you’re not looking for it, then you’re functionally blind to it.”On Tuesday, science writer Wray Herbert wrote about the work for the Huffington Post, calling the data “really scary” with “life-threatening implications.” I have to respectfully disagree. On the contrary, I’d argue that it’s because of this hyper-focused, selectively blind attention that expert radiologists are useful.The study draws inspiration from the famous ‘invisible gorilla’ experiment done in 1999. In that work, researchers asked participants to watch a short video of people passing a basketball and count the number of passes made by those wearing white. About halfway through the video, somebody walks through the scene wearing a ridiculous black gorilla suit. The gorilla even does a little jig. Yet half of the study’s participants never noticed.