Change Blindness or Misdirection?

Psychologists are just beginning to study what magicians have been perfecting for years. We humans like to believe we are good observers, taking in all the important details in our surroundings – but it turns out we’re pretty bad at it.
We think of our field of attention like a floodlight, allowing us to observe the big picture. But in fact, our attention works more like a spotlight (mine works more like a penlight) and we only really “see” what we observe.

If our brains really could take in all of the details of our surroundings we’d quickly become overwhelming by extraneous facts. And so we filter them out in order to focus our limited powers of observation to where we believe they need to focus.

Most of the time this works out well for us. Very rarely does it cause a serious enough problem for our species and so this trait is passed along. Our active mind focuses on the “important” stuff leaving enough mental reserves for us to be able to quickly react to dangerous situations.

This little “security flaw” is harmless enough, unless we find ourselves up against a sinister psychological manipulator. Magicians exploit this hole all the time. A magician can steal your watch by making you believe he’s trying to do a card trick. If the magician said, “I’m about to steal your watch,” it would be near impossible to do.

Check out this video below that seems to suggest that George W. Bush had his wristwatch stolen as he was so distracted by trying to communicate to the crowd. His limited brain powers are no match for the onslaught of  sensory input … dozens of people are grabbing him. shaking his hand, hugging and talking to him. The Secret Service is focused on protecting the President from violence, not trained to protect him from pickpockets.

Well, it turns out, Mr. Bush did not lose his watch that day. He was suspicious enough of the crowd to take off his watch and stick it in his pocket.  I guess it takes a thief …

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