Change Blindness

Change Blindness is a perceptual phenomenon where individuals fail to notice significant changes in visual scenes due to limited attention and memory capacity. It has applications in magic tricks, user interface design, and understanding attentional focus. The phenomenon raises awareness of cognitive limitations and challenges in processing visual information accurately.


Change Blindness is a perceptual phenomenon that occurs when individuals fail to notice significant changes in their visual environment, even when those changes are seemingly obvious. It highlights the limitations of our attention and the selective nature of our perception, demonstrating that we do not perceive every detail in our surroundings. Instead, our attention is often focused on specific elements, while other changes go unnoticed.

Key Characteristics of Change Blindness:

Key Characteristics

  1. Limited Attention: Change Blindness underscores the limited capacity of human attention. Our attention is a finite resource, and we cannot process all visual information simultaneously.
  2. Selective Perception: We tend to focus on specific aspects of our environment while neglecting others. This selectivity in perception can lead to the failure to detect changes.
  3. Inattentional Blindness: Change Blindness is related to the concept of inattentional blindness, where individuals fail to notice an unexpected object or event because their attention is directed elsewhere.
  4. Gestalt Principles: Change Blindness is influenced by Gestalt principles of perception, which emphasize the organization and grouping of visual elements. Changes that do not disrupt these principles are more likely to go unnoticed.
  5. Real-World Relevance: Change Blindness has real-world implications, as it can affect our ability to detect important changes in situations like driving, security monitoring, or medical diagnoses.

Benefits of Understanding Change Blindness

Understanding and recognizing Change Blindness can offer several benefits in various contexts:

  1. Improved Attention Management: Awareness of Change Blindness can help individuals and professionals better manage their attention and reduce the risk of overlooking critical details.
  2. Enhanced Decision-Making: In situations where quick and accurate decision-making is crucial, such as healthcare or aviation, recognizing Change Blindness can lead to more informed choices.
  3. Design and User Experience: Designers and user experience professionals can apply the principles of Change Blindness to create more user-friendly interfaces and environments.
  4. Psychological Research: Change Blindness is a valuable topic of study in cognitive psychology, providing insights into human attention and perception.
  5. Education and Training: Educators and trainers can use Change Blindness as an illustrative example to teach students about cognitive limitations and the importance of vigilance.

Challenges and Considerations

While Change Blindness offers valuable insights into the limitations of human perception, it also presents certain challenges and considerations:

  1. Real-World Consequences: Change Blindness can have serious real-world consequences, such as traffic accidents or security breaches, making it important to address and mitigate.
  2. Ethical Concerns: Some experiments related to Change Blindness may involve deception, which raises ethical concerns in research. Researchers must ensure that participants’ rights are protected.
  3. Individual Differences: The extent of Change Blindness can vary among individuals, and factors such as attentional capacity and expertise play a role in its manifestation.
  4. Task Complexity: The likelihood of Change Blindness occurring depends on the complexity of the task and the degree to which the change disrupts perceptual patterns.
  5. Attentional Training: While recognizing Change Blindness is beneficial, it may not eliminate the phenomenon entirely, as attentional training has its limitations.

Use Cases and Examples

To gain a better understanding of how Change Blindness operates in practical scenarios, let’s explore some real-world use cases and examples:

1. Driving and Traffic Safety

Change Blindness can have serious implications for road safety:

Example: A driver may fail to notice a pedestrian stepping into a crosswalk when their attention is focused on changing lanes or checking their GPS.

2. Airport Security

Security personnel must be aware of Change Blindness in their monitoring tasks:

Example: A security officer may overlook a prohibited item in a passenger’s bag if their attention is primarily focused on a different part of the X-ray image.

3. Medical Diagnosis

Change Blindness can affect medical professionals’ ability to detect abnormalities in medical images:

Example: A radiologist may miss a significant change or anomaly in an X-ray or MRI scan if their attention is drawn to other areas of the image.

4. User Interface Design

Designers consider Change Blindness when creating user interfaces:

Example: When designing a website, a designer ensures that important buttons or links are visually distinct, reducing the risk of users missing critical features.

5. Cognitive Psychology Research

Researchers use Change Blindness experiments to study attention and perception:

Example: In an experiment, participants are asked to count the number of passes in a basketball game video, causing them to overlook a person in a gorilla suit walking through the game.

6. Aviation and Air Traffic Control

Pilots and air traffic controllers must be vigilant to avoid incidents:

Example: An air traffic controller may not notice a conflict between two aircraft on the radar screen if their attention is focused on other planes.

Change Blindness: Key Highlights

  • Definition: Change Blindness is a perceptual phenomenon where individuals fail to notice significant changes in visual scenes due to limited attention and memory capacity.
  • Characteristics:
    • Limited Attention: Inability to process all visual information simultaneously.
    • Inattentional Blindness: Not noticing unexpected changes when attention is focused elsewhere.
    • Memory Constraints: Difficulty retaining and comparing visual details across changes.
  • Use Cases:
    • Visual Scene Changes: Noticing changes when attention is fully engaged.
    • Magic Tricks: Magicians exploit Change Blindness to create illusions.
    • User Interfaces: Designing interfaces to minimize Change Blindness in user experiences.
  • Benefits:
    • Attention Allocation: Emphasizing the importance of attention allocation.
    • Attentional Focus: Recognizing factors influencing attentional focus.
    • Perceptual Awareness: Gaining insights into perceptual awareness mechanisms.
  • Challenges:
    • Attention Management: Balancing attentional resources for processing critical information.
    • User Interface Design: Minimizing Change Blindness to optimize usability.
    • Information Overload: Handling excessive visual stimuli contributing to Change Blindness.
  • Examples:
    • Gorilla Experiment: Participants missing a gorilla walking through a basketball game video.
    • Color Changing Card Trick: Magicians changing a card’s color without audience noticing.
    • Website Redesign: Users overlooking changes in a website’s layout during redesign.

Connected Thinking Frameworks

Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking

Convergent thinking occurs when the solution to a problem can be found by applying established rules and logical reasoning. Whereas divergent thinking is an unstructured problem-solving method where participants are encouraged to develop many innovative ideas or solutions to a given problem. Where convergent thinking might work for larger, mature organizations where divergent thinking is more suited for startups and innovative companies.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing observations, facts, evidence, and arguments to form a judgment about what someone reads, hears, says, or writes.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Lindy Effect

The Lindy Effect is a theory about the ageing of non-perishable things, like technology or ideas. Popularized by author Nicholas Nassim Taleb, the Lindy Effect states that non-perishable things like technology age – linearly – in reverse. Therefore, the older an idea or a technology, the same will be its life expectancy.


Antifragility was first coined as a term by author, and options trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Antifragility is a characteristic of systems that thrive as a result of stressors, volatility, and randomness. Therefore, Antifragile is the opposite of fragile. Where a fragile thing breaks up to volatility; a robust thing resists volatility. An antifragile thing gets stronger from volatility (provided the level of stressors and randomness doesn’t pass a certain threshold).

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic means of investigating the factors and interactions that could contribute to a potential outcome. It is about thinking non-linearly, and understanding the second-order consequences of actions and input into the system.

Vertical Thinking

Vertical thinking, on the other hand, is a problem-solving approach that favors a selective, analytical, structured, and sequential mindset. The focus of vertical thinking is to arrive at a reasoned, defined solution.

Maslow’s Hammer

Maslow’s Hammer, otherwise known as the law of the instrument or the Einstellung effect, is a cognitive bias causing an over-reliance on a familiar tool. This can be expressed as the tendency to overuse a known tool (perhaps a hammer) to solve issues that might require a different tool. This problem is persistent in the business world where perhaps known tools or frameworks might be used in the wrong context (like business plans used as planning tools instead of only investors’ pitches).

Peter Principle

The Peter Principle was first described by Canadian sociologist Lawrence J. Peter in his 1969 book The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle states that people are continually promoted within an organization until they reach their level of incompetence.

Straw Man Fallacy

The straw man fallacy describes an argument that misrepresents an opponent’s stance to make rebuttal more convenient. The straw man fallacy is a type of informal logical fallacy, defined as a flaw in the structure of an argument that renders it invalid.

Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect is a paradoxical phenomenon where the act of suppressing information to reduce visibility causes it to become more visible. In 2003, Streisand attempted to suppress aerial photographs of her Californian home by suing photographer Kenneth Adelman for an invasion of privacy. Adelman, who Streisand assumed was paparazzi, was instead taking photographs to document and study coastal erosion. In her quest for more privacy, Streisand’s efforts had the opposite effect.


As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.

Recognition Heuristic

The recognition heuristic is a psychological model of judgment and decision making. It is part of a suite of simple and economical heuristics proposed by psychologists Daniel Goldstein and Gerd Gigerenzer. The recognition heuristic argues that inferences are made about an object based on whether it is recognized or not.

Representativeness Heuristic

The representativeness heuristic was first described by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The representativeness heuristic judges the probability of an event according to the degree to which that event resembles a broader class. When queried, most will choose the first option because the description of John matches the stereotype we may hold for an archaeologist.

Take-The-Best Heuristic

The take-the-best heuristic is a decision-making shortcut that helps an individual choose between several alternatives. The take-the-best (TTB) heuristic decides between two or more alternatives based on a single good attribute, otherwise known as a cue. In the process, less desirable attributes are ignored.

Bundling Bias

The bundling bias is a cognitive bias in e-commerce where a consumer tends not to use all of the products bought as a group, or bundle. Bundling occurs when individual products or services are sold together as a bundle. Common examples are tickets and experiences. The bundling bias dictates that consumers are less likely to use each item in the bundle. This means that the value of the bundle and indeed the value of each item in the bundle is decreased.

Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect is a cognitive bias where individuals believe that generic information – which applies to most people – is specifically tailored for themselves.

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Goodhart’s Law

Goodhart’s Law is named after British monetary policy theorist and economist Charles Goodhart. Speaking at a conference in Sydney in 1975, Goodhart said that “any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.” Goodhart’s Law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What in marketing can be associated with social proof.

Moore’s Law

Moore’s law states that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles approximately every two years. This observation was made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 and it become a guiding principle for the semiconductor industry and has had far-reaching implications for technology as a whole.

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation as a term was first described by Clayton M. Christensen, an American academic and business consultant whom The Economist called “the most influential management thinker of his time.” Disruptive innovation describes the process by which a product or service takes hold at the bottom of a market and eventually displaces established competitors, products, firms, or alliances.

Value Migration

Value migration was first described by author Adrian Slywotzky in his 1996 book Value Migration – How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition. Value migration is the transferal of value-creating forces from outdated business models to something better able to satisfy consumer demands.

Bye-Now Effect

The bye-now effect describes the tendency for consumers to think of the word “buy” when they read the word “bye”. In a study that tracked diners at a name-your-own-price restaurant, each diner was asked to read one of two phrases before ordering their meal. The first phrase, “so long”, resulted in diners paying an average of $32 per meal. But when diners recited the phrase “bye bye” before ordering, the average price per meal rose to $45.


Groupthink occurs when well-intentioned individuals make non-optimal or irrational decisions based on a belief that dissent is impossible or on a motivation to conform. Groupthink occurs when members of a group reach a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the alternatives and their consequences.


A stereotype is a fixed and over-generalized belief about a particular group or class of people. These beliefs are based on the false assumption that certain characteristics are common to every individual residing in that group. Many stereotypes have a long and sometimes controversial history and are a direct consequence of various political, social, or economic events. Stereotyping is the process of making assumptions about a person or group of people based on various attributes, including gender, race, religion, or physical traits.

Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Murphy’s Law was named after aerospace engineer Edward A. Murphy. During his time working at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949, Murphy cursed a technician who had improperly wired an electrical component and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”

Law of Unintended Consequences

The law of unintended consequences was first mentioned by British philosopher John Locke when writing to parliament about the unintended effects of interest rate rises. However, it was popularized in 1936 by American sociologist Robert K. Merton who looked at unexpected, unanticipated, and unintended consequences and their impact on society.

Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental attribution error is a bias people display when judging the behavior of others. The tendency is to over-emphasize personal characteristics and under-emphasize environmental and situational factors.

Outcome Bias

Outcome bias describes a tendency to evaluate a decision based on its outcome and not on the process by which the decision was reached. In other words, the quality of a decision is only determined once the outcome is known. Outcome bias occurs when a decision is based on the outcome of previous events without regard for how those events developed.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is the tendency for people to perceive past events as more predictable than they actually were. The result of a presidential election, for example, seems more obvious when the winner is announced. The same can also be said for the avid sports fan who predicted the correct outcome of a match regardless of whether their team won or lost. Hindsight bias, therefore, is the tendency for an individual to convince themselves that they accurately predicted an event before it happened.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon Effect.

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