Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reduce Change Blindness with Awareness

I love this experiment investigating change blindness, unfortunately not available on-line. So I’ll explain. A confederate of the experimenter is asking the subject questions. Two people walk between the confederate and subject carrying a door, briefly blocking the subject’s view of the confederate. When the door passes, a different confederate is asking the questions. Change blindness refers to the incredible fact that a large percentage of subjects did not notice that they were talking to a different confederate. In other words, imagine you’re talking to your friend John, two people walk between you and John with a door so you can’t see John, and Ralph replaces John. You don’t notice that instead of talking to John, you’re now talking to Ralph. Pretty weird, huh?

We do this all the time with the people in our lives. We go from one dysfunctional relationship to another—different person, same issues.

We feel angry with one person, then the next and the next, never seeing how our own reactions trigger our anger. It’s not really the other person. They’re interchangeable. We don’t seem them. We mindlessly go through the same motions getting the same results.

It’s like smoking. You’re already on your next cigarette before you’ve enjoyed the first. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve lit another one up. Eating is also very much like this for most of us.

Awareness refers to just the opposite attitude. Awareness is about really noticing the things in our lives. That includes our own behavior as well as that of others. It is about paying attention with curiosity. It is about being deliberate in our actions. It is about noticing what’s in front of us, be it door, person or different person.

          Oh yes, you’re a different person, Ralph not John. I don’t have to expect the same from you.

          I just finished smoking a cigarette, do I really want another?

          This pasta is good, do I want more or have I had enough?

If we try to see and not allow ourselves to be blind to what’s in front of us, we’d notice when we’re talking to a different person. We’d care to hear what they’re really saying, and what we’re really saying and doing.

To reduce change blindness for yourself, practice being more aware by really paying attention while you go about one of your routine activities, like brushing your teeth, eating or walking. See how much you can notice about a routine behavior.

         •  Find out more about mindful awareness is in my newsletter.

         • You don’t have to be depressed to get a lot of good ideas from
            The Mindful Way through Depression, by Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn.
            I love the CDs.

          • Listen to Kabat-Zinn free


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

The "door experiment" you are referring to is in fact available online! (You've got to surf a bit more!) Go to YouTube and search for "The Door Experiment" or 'change blindness'. There you go.

Judy'sAlterEgo said...

Thanks for that!