Original Article

Mind & Society

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 1-18

First online:

Bounded awareness: what you fail to see can hurt you

  • Dolly ChughAffiliated withStern School of Business, New York University Email author 
  • , Max H. BazermanAffiliated withHarvard University

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We argue that people often fail to perceive and process stimuli easily available to them. In other words, we challenge the tacit assumption that awareness is unbounded and provide evidence that humans regularly fail to see and use stimuli and information easily available to them. We call this phenomenon “bounded awareness” (Bazerman and Chugh in Frontiers of social psychology: negotiations, Psychology Press: College Park 2005).


We begin by first describing perceptual mental processes in which obvious information is missed—that is, simply not seen—by the visual perceiver. Inattentional blindness and change blindness are examples. We then extend this phenomenon to decision making and forecasting, using evidence about focalism to illustrate how people over focus on some information and fail to use other easily available information. We next examine how these processes of bounded awareness may extend to other important domains and across levels of analysis, such as information-sharing in groups, decision making in negotiators, and in competitive bidding situations such as auctions.


Bounded awareness is a phenomenon that encompasses a variety of psychological processes, all of which lead to the same error: a failure to see, seek, use, or share important and relevant information that is easily seen, sought, used, or shared.


Bounded awareness Focusing Focalism Winner’s curse Bounded rationality Inattentional blindness Change blindness