1999 volume 28(9) pages 1059 – 1074

Cite as:
Simons D J, Chabris C F, 1999, "Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events" Perception 28(9) 1059 – 1074

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Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events

Daniel J Simons, Christopher F Chabris

Received 9 May 1999, in revised form 20 June 1999

Abstract. With each eye fixation, we experience a richly detailed visual world. Yet recent work on visual integration and change direction reveals that we are surprisingly unaware of the details of our environment from one view to the next: we often do not detect large changes to objects and scenes ('change blindness'). Furthermore, without attention, we may not even perceive objects ('inattentional blindness'). Taken together, these findings suggest that we perceive and remember only those objects and details that receive focused attention. In this paper, we briefly review and discuss evidence for these cognitive forms of 'blindness'. We then present a new study that builds on classic studies of divided visual attention to examine inattentional blindness for complex objects and events in dynamic scenes. Our results suggest that the likelihood of noticing an unexpected object depends on the similarity of that object to other objects in the display and on how difficult the priming monitoring task is. Interestingly, spatial proximity of the critical unattended object to attended locations does not appear to affect detection, suggesting that observers attend to objects and events, not spatial positions. We discuss the implications of these results for visual representations and awareness of our visual environment.

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