Failure to detect changes to people during a real-world interaction

Abstract

Recent research on change detection has documented surprising failures to detect visual changes occurring between views of a scene, suggesting the possibility that visual representations contain few details. Although these studies convincingly demonstrate change blindness for objects in still images and motion pictures, they may not adequately assess the capacity to represent objects in the real world. Here we examine and reject the possibility that change blindness in previous studies resulted from passive viewing of 2-D displays. In one experiment, an experimenter initiated a conversation with a pedestrian, and during the interaction, he was surreptitiously replaced by a different experimenter. Only half of the pedestrians detected the change. Furthermore, successful detection depended on social group membership; pedestrians from the same social group as the experimenters detected the change but those from a different social group did not. A second experiment further examined the importance of this effect of social group. Provided that the meaning of the scene is unchanged, changes to attended objects can escape detection even when they occur during a natural, real-world interaction. The discussion provides a set of guidelines and suggestions for future research on change blindness.

References

  1. Aginsky, V.,Tarr, M. J., &Rensink, R. A. (1997). The stability of color, location, and object presence in mental representations of natural scenes.Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science,38, S1009.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Arnheim, R. (1966).Film as art. Berkeley: University of California Press. (Original work published 1933)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bartlett, F. C. (1977).Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1932)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Blackmore, S. J., Brelstaff, G., Nelson, K., &Troscianko, T. (1995). Is the richness of our visual world an illusion? Transsaccadic memory for complex scenes.Perception,24, 1075–1081.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Brewer, W. F., &Treyens, J. C. (1981). Role of schemata in memory for places.Cognitive Psychology,13, 207–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bridgeman, B., &Mayer, M. (1983). Failure to integrate visual information from successive fixations.Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society,21, 285–286.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Dennett, D. C. (1991).Consciousness explained. Boston: Little, Brown.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Grimes, J. (1996). On the failure to detect changes in scenes across saccades. In K. Akins (Ed.),Perception: Vol. 2. Vancouver studies in cognitive science (pp. 89–110). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Henderson, J. M. (1997). Transsaccadic memory and integration during real-world object perception.Psychological Science,8, 51–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Hochberg, J. (1986). Representation of motion and space in video and cinematic displays. In K. R. Boff, L. Kaufman, & J. P. Thomas (Eds.),Handbook of perception and human performance: Vol. 1. Sensory processes and perception (pp. 22.21–22.64). New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Irwin, D. E. (1991). Information integration across saccadic eye movements.Cognitive Psychology,23, 420–456.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Judd, C. M., &Park, B. (1988). Out-group homogeneity: Judgments of variability at the individual and group levels.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,54, 778–788.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Levin, D. T. (1996). Classifying faces by race: The structure of face categories.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Leaning, Memory, & Cognition,22, 1364–1382.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Levin, D. T., &Simons, D. J. (1997). Failure to detect changes to attended objects in motion pictures.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,4, 501–506.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Linville, P.W., Fischer, G.W., &Salovey, P. (1989). Perceived distributions of the characteristics of in-group and out-group members: Empirical evidence and a computer simulation.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,57, 165–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Loftus, E. F. (1979).Eyewitness testimony. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. McConkie, G.W., &Currie, C. B. (1996). Visual stability across saccades while viewing complex pictures.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,22, 563–581.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Nickerson, R. S., &Adams, M. J. (1979). Long-term memory for a common object.Cognitive Psychology,11, 287–307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. O’Regan, J. K.,Deubel, H.,Clark, J. J., &Rensink, R. A. (1997). Picture changes during blinks: Not seeing where you look and seeing where you don’t look.Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science,38, S707.

    Google Scholar 

  20. O’Regan, J. K.,Rensink, R. A., &Clark, J. J. (1996). “Mud splashes” render picture changes invisible.Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science,37, S213.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Pashler, H. (1988). Familiarity and visual change detection.Perception & Psychophysics,44, 369–378.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Phillips, W. A. (1974). On the distinction between sensory storage and short-term visual memory.Perception & Psychophysics,16, 283–290.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Rayner, K., &Pollatsek, A. (1992). Eye movements and scene perception.Canadian Journal of Psychology,46, 342–376.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Rensink, R. A., O’Regan, J. K., &Clark, J. J. (1997). To see or not to see: The need for attention to perceive changes in scenes.Psychological Science,8, 368–373.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Rothbart, M., &John, O. P. (1985). Social categorization and behavioral episodes: A cognitive analysis of the effects of intergroup contact.Journal of Social Issues,41, 81–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Simons, D. J. (1996). In sight, out of mind: When object representations fail.Psychological Science,7, 301–305.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Simons, D. J., &Levin, D. T. (1997). Change blindness.Trends in Cognitive Sciences,1, 261–267.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Tarr, M. J., &Aginsky, V. (1996, July).From objects to scenes: Speculations on similarities and differences. Paper presented at the Scene Recognition Workshop, Max-Planck-Institut für Biologische Kybernetik, Tübingen.

  29. Treisman, A. (1993). The perception of features and objects. In A. Baddeley & L. Weiskrantz (Eds.),Attention: Selection, awareness, and control: A tribute to Donald Broadbent (pp. 5–35). Oxford: Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Daniel J. Simons or Daniel T. Levin.

Additional information

The authors contributed equally to this report, and authorship order was determined arbitrarily. Thanks to Leon Rozenblit, Carter Smith, Julia Noland, and Joy Beck for helping to carry out the experiments and to Linda Hermer for reading an earlier draft of the manuscript. D.J.S. was supported by NSF and Jacob K. Javits fellowships, and parts of this research appeared in his doctoral thesis.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Simons, D.J., Levin, D.T. Failure to detect changes to people during a real-world interaction. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 5, 644–649 (1998). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03208840

Download citation

Keywords

  • Change Detection
  • Motion Picture
  • Object File
  • Change Blindness
  • Visual Detail