We would all like to believe that we're attentive and see the things that go on around us. Sadly, psychology has made an effort to prove us wrong. The human brain works in a way that minimizes the input of irrelevant data, so that it can optimize its functionality. This means that sometimes we have a tendency to miss the most obvious things that happen right in front of us. Here are a few examples of psychological tests that prove how oblivious we all are.

Selective Attention Test

Otherwise known as inattentional blindness, selective attention is a well-known concept in psychology. A famous demonstration of this phenomenon was documented by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris in 1999. Watch the video below and see how you do.


Did you see it?

I didn’t and neither did approximately 50% of people who watched it. I actually had to go to the beginning of the video to be convinced that the gorilla was there the first time around. The reason for this is our selective attention.

People’s visual perception is much more inaccurate than most of us think. Our conscious mind can’t process all that our eyes take in, so it is inevitable that we just miss something. In this case a huge gorilla.

Violinist in the Metro Station

In 2008, a man went into the metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time thousands of people went past him, but only a few stopped. He earned $32.


That man was Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world, playing on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. Tickets for his concerts cost about $100.

Would you have stopped?

“Missing Child” Experiment

In 2008, an Orlando news station plastered posters of a missing child – 8 year old Britney - all over a local mall. Then they had little Britney sit on a bench a few feet from the posters. The result? Some people stopped to study the posters, some just glanced, but out of hundreds of people to walk past the posters only two noticed the their resemblance to her, stopped and actually talked to her.

Change Blindness

This one is my favorite. It’s a phenomenon when people are unaware of a change that has happened because they weren’t looking straight at it at the time. The changes can be tiny or huge and obvious.