Bounded awareness: what you fail to see can hurt you

Abstract

Objective

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).

Findings

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.

Conclusions

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In a dynamic game-theoretic equilibrium, the contestant would not know that she won, but should still keep her original choice.

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Correspondence to Dolly Chugh.

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Chugh, D., Bazerman, M.H. Bounded awareness: what you fail to see can hurt you. Mind & Society 6, 1–18 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11299-006-0020-4

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Keywords

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