Depending on what we focus on, our brains can be completely blind to obvious changes going on around us. This is called "change blindness," and it is unnerving when you observe it. Below are a few examples of this in action.
This first video is an experiment conducted at Harvard where 75% of the people in the test don't notice that the man in front of them has turned into a different person. This was conducted in a formal test setting. The people involved were interviewed after the experiment to better understand their perception of events.
This next video shows change blindness being used as more of a parlor trick. Magician Derren Brown exploits this blind spot in a much more dramatic way. Changing clothes, race, and gender doesn't seem to matter to these people on the street. This demonstration isn't as controlled, but is a lot of fun to watch.
The last video is an "Awareness Test" that has been around for a while. You can run this test on yourself and on others.
The concept of change blindness highlights a potential problem for UX professionals. Most of the time, user researchers and UX architects begin their research with specific goals in mind, and are focused on a specific aspect of the product. But with this focus comes the risk that they will be blind to other aspects of the user's experience. What are we failing to capture when observing people using the products we design? We need to reserve space in our work for uncovering those things that we don't know we don't know, and make it an official part of the process. We will observe more of the moonwalking bears that teach us valuable lessons about our users and our products.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Carrie Spates is an Associate VP of Design at Siteworx, an award-winning digital experience agency with deep roots in experience design, web content management, e-commerce, digital asset management, and systems integration. She leads interaction design teams across the country, creating world-class experiences that validate the value, design, and usability of customer experiences while ensuring coherence of services and digital strategy across all digital platforms. Carrie is a champion of design ideas and a dedicated mentor to creative teams, supporting a collaborative approach to cross disciplines.
Matt has over five years of IT experience with specialization in user experience and user interface design. His project/industry experience includes: financial services, telecom, retail, pharmaceutical, utilities, chemicals, healthcare, and government. He is experienced with system implementation projects with responsibilities including concept development through implementation, testing, and go-live. He has specific expertise conducting user research, creating innovative designs, and setting strong usability standards. Before coming to Siteworx, Matt worked for LexisNexis as a Senior Product Designer where he was responsible for promoting user experience within an overall structure of deliverables that integrated the recommendations of the project team regarding user experience.