Change Blindness Essay

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Imagine you are watching a movie in which an actor is sitting in a cafeteria with a jacket slung over his shoulder. The camera then cuts to a close-up and his jacket is now over the back of his chair. You might think that everyone would notice this obvious editing mistake. Yet, recent research on visual memory has found that people are surprisingly poor at noticing large changes to objects, photographs, and motion pictures from one instant to the next (see Simons & Levin, 1997 for a review). Although researchers have long noted the existence of such "change blindness" (e.g., Bridgeman, Hendry, & Stark, 1975; French, 1953; Friedman, 1979; Hochberg, 1986; Kuleshov, 1987; McConkie & Zola, 1979; Pashler, 1988; Phillips, 1974), recent demonstrations by John Grimes and others have led to a renewed interest in the problem of change detection. The new theoretical ideas and paradigms resulting from this resurgence in the study of visual memory are the focus of this special issue. In his demonstration, Grimes (1996) showed observers photographs of natural scenes for a later memory test. While they were studying an image, scanning from one object to another, details of the scene were changed during a saccade. Observers often missed surprisingly large changes (e.g., 2 people exchanging heads). This finding was consistent with earlier work on the failure to integrate information across saccades (e.g., Henderson, 1997; Irwin, 1991; Rayner & Pollatsek, 1983), but in some ways was a more striking demonstration because the changes were so clearly visible to observers when the change occurred during a fixation. Furthermore, Grimes used photographs rather than simple novel objects or letters, thereby bringing demonstrations of change blindness closer to everyday perceptual experience. More recently, several labs have shown that change blindness for objects in

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