How Observant Are You?

by Jesse Galef

I’m always astounded at how poor data-gathering devices we humans are.  Forget all the hallucinations and misinterpretations, we simply don’t notice or retain most of what happens around us.  Here’s a great demonstration (via Richard Wiseman’s blog)

I was pretty pathetic. How did you all do?

This is one of the reasons we developed the scientific method. Trusting our senses and powers of observation failed us too many times. We recognize our own shortcomings and try to overcome them.

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About Jesse Galef

Jesse is a career atheist, and is currently Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance. Before that, he worked for the Secular Coalition for America and the American Humanist Association. He also blogs about science, philosophy, and rationality at Measure of Doubt with his sister Julia.
(The views expressed are not representing the Secular Student Alliance or any other organization.)

  • Len

    I saw the rolling pin. That was all.

  • the_original_xy

    i noticed the flowers.

  • memepump

    I saw the knight–>bear change, the inspectors clothes, the item lying next to the dead guy (but not that he himself was a different person). I think the furniture and rugs, etc. were hard to spot.

  • fftysmthg

    A good example of misdirection. I didn’t notice any of the changes.

  • WarbVIII

    wow, and damn, but I will say that there is no way the month came up in the skit so his deduction is also a red herring,lol I think I noticed the plant,chair and body with no clock,otherwise I scored horrendus…

  • Baconsbud

    Wow did I do lousy or what only one I am sure of is the rolling pin and nothing else.

  • nekouken

    I failed utterly; I was too busy looking for clues to who killed the guy.

    I didn’t get the petunia thing, either.

  • Clyde

    For some reason my attention was drawn to the bear at the very beginning; so naturally, I noticed when it became a knight. But that was it.

    Still, I don’t think our powers of observation are quite as defective as this demonstration would have us believe. As a basic survival mechanism, our brains have evolved to observe reality. What we have in the video is a series of off camera manipulations that could never happen in reality. Bears don’t suddenly become knights; flowers don’t suddenly change species. Our brains are not geared to observe the impossible.

    • Liudvikas

      Exactly, it is an interesting survival mechanism. Our brains are really skeptical and won’t acknowledge something impossible. Because it simply wouldn’t pay off in the long run.

    • Lessica

      I noticed the bear switch, too – but in my case, it was because the other video they made involved a moonwalking bear… No, seriously.

  • Joe

    Egad, I failed completely! The only thing I noticed was that I thought the suit of armor was moving a bit.

    Very cool.

  • amidoinitrite

    haha I got about 5

    The rolling pin, the maid and the man on the floor changing, the object laying on the floor changing, and the carpet changing :P

  • Nick

    I just love that the whole thing is about improving road safety for cyclists. Every city should be running commercials like these. The more bikes and fewer cars we get on the streets, the better off everyone will be.

  • Holly

    I didn’t notice ANY! HAHAH!

  • Sunny Ng

    I only saw three: the armor (it was moving), the body and the clock. I suck.

    • Siberia

      Same :D

    • DDM

      Yeah, I saw the armor was moving and knew something was up because of that, but I couldn’t place it. I didn’t notice anything other than that, though, not even the fact the bear changed into armor.

  • Tyrrlin

    I noticed the rolling pin, and the suit of armor moving. However, I cannot get the video to play all the way through to see all the other changes made.

  • mike

    I saw the clock on the floor, just because a time was mentioned, and I tried to verify it. I saw the bear, the rolling pin, but didn’t process the change.