Change Blindness: The Influence of Positive Mood on Change Detection in Visual Scenes

Change blindness is the finding that people often fail to notice substantial changes between different views of a visual scene. The current study investigated the effect of mood states on people’s ability to detect changes, by comparing participants’ performance on a motion picture cha

Change blindness describes the robust scientific finding that people often fail to notice changes in visual scenes (Simons Levin, 1998; Simons, 2000; Levin et al., 2002). Even substantial changes are undetected when views of a scene are briefly interrupted by film cuts, saccades, blank screens, blinks, or other occlusions (Simons, 2000). Change detection failures have been found in both artificial scenes (Scholl, 2000) and in natural, real-world scenes or interactions (Simons Levin, 1998). In addition, change blindness occurs whether or not observers are that changes will occur, regardless of the incidental or intentional nature of the encoding task (Levin et al., 2002; Bendall Thompson, 2015).

While change blindness is explained by a variety of interrelated perceptual and representational systems (see Levin Simons, 1997), many researchers, such as Rensink et al. (1997), highlight the key role of attentional processes in change detection (Simons, 2000). Some studies have shown that changes are more easily and readily identified when they occur in the center of visual attention (Rensink et al., 1977). This is because focused attention is necessary to detect changes and create more detailed representations of objects of high visual interest (Rensink et al., 1997). Therefore, change blindness demonstrates how people’s attentional capacity is often limited to focal details, and our internal representations of visual experiences are much more sparse and less detailed than how we intuitively think (Simons, 2000). People cannot attend to and retain everything they see, because the visual world is rich and highly cluttered with information. Instead, we selectively prioritize the details of a visual scene that are most relevant, and are the focus of our attention, while less relevant aspects are missed and go unnoticed, even when they change substantially between visual scenes (Levin Simons, 1997).

The implications of change blindness are double-sided; our sparse representations both limit our performance on attentional tasks, but are also an essential part of our daily visual processing (Levin Simons, 1997; Davies Hine, 2007). As an adaptive feature of our visual processing and representational system, change blindness might be critical to our experience of visual continuity in everyday life, by selectively filtering out information between views, and preserving only the essential representations to make sense of scenes and events (Levin Simons, 1997). This does not mean, however, that change blindness does not create issues in our lives. Potentially disastrous real-life implications of change blindness are demonstrated by studies involving driving (Galpin et al., 2009) and eyewitness testimonies (Davies Hine, 2007). For instance, a study by Davies and Hine (2007) found that 61% of participants who watched a video enactment of a burglary failed to notice that the suspect changed during the video. The purpose of the current study is to investigate potential factors that might attenuate and reduce change blindness to improve visual change detection.


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