Change blindness impacts every person to varying degrees. It is a natural phenomenon that often benefits people.
However, when driving, change blindness works against drivers. In fact, it is actually a speculated cause of numerous crashes.
How change blindness happens
Frontiers discusses the phenomenon of change blindness in certain specific scenarios. This phenomenon refers to the way a human brain interprets and collects information in the surrounding area and circumstances, and how it then processes that information.
Every second, a person collects up to 2,000 pieces of information. The brain then sorts through this information at light speeds and alerts the conscious mind to about 20 pieces of information.
In daily life, this is enormously helpful in that it keeps the brain capable of organizing things quickly and moving through the day at an efficient pace.
Why it is a risk in cars
In cars, this is an enormous issue because a driver needs to have the ability to multitask and expect the unexpected. The idea of change blindness centers on the thought that the brain creates many pre-made scenarios, and that it does not notice things that disrupt such predictions.
For example, most people expect to get from their starting point to their destination without any crashes. Thus, the things that cause crashes – animals darting into the road, other drivers making surprise sudden movements – are not part of the predictive scenarios. A driver cannot react to them quickly, which leads to crashes.
Thus, some experts speculate that change blindness actually increases a driver’s chance of getting into a crash.