[bksvol-discuss] Re: Book in collection on selective seeing and perception, and proofreading (was Re: Re: Visual Perception)

  • From: misha <mishatronics@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 23 Jun 2012 14:52:44 -0700

I've heard about this book, though I haven't read it. I've been reading about (and mostly listening to podcasts about) recent neurobiology and from them, as I understand it, selective attention applies to all senses.

In fact, it goes beyond just the idea of selecting the details the brain thinks might be most important and ignoring others. Many of the details that you do see/hear/smell/feel are not really there. There are based there based on the person's past experiences and what he/she expects to be associated with the current situation.

I can give a personal example of selective hearing that I noticed recently. I live in a town that allows chickens in the city limits and there are a couple homes that have chickens within a block or so of where I live. I noticed that when I am listening to the chickens, I hear few if any urban sounds at the same time. I think this is because I associate hearing chickens with visiting my relatives when I was very young, when most of them lived on farms. It's been quite some time since I've heard chickens on a regular basis, so I just don't expect to hear urban sounds and chickens at the same time.


On 6/23/2012 2:22 PM, Chela Robles wrote:
Judy I wonder if there is such a book on selective hearing.
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On 6/23/2012 2:15 PM, Judy s. wrote:
There is a fascinating book that just came into the collection this spring on the whole topic of selective perception, based on selective seeing. It's The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.
The book description doesn't really match what the book is about. Basically, it's about this whole topic--how do sighted people filter out details and decide what's important to pay attention to and what isn't. The fascinating thing they discovered about how the filtering is a done at a level that isn't conscious, and can actually cause sighted people to miss incredibly important details of what's happening around us. The invisible gorilla title comes from a famous experiment done by these two authors, where they had people watch a basketball game and asked them details about the game. However, the authors were really testing if the observers would see something very unusual and obvious happening in the scene. They did that by having a man dress up as a gorilla and mix into the crowd watching the game in a way that should be very obvious to anyone observing the game. The startling discovery was that fifty percent of the people they asked to watch the game never saw the very obvious gorilla--it was invisible to them even when they looked right at it. The whole book is about this kind of filtering as to what people see and don't see, regardless of what's really there to see. It's something the authors have researched extensively to help understand what people "see" and don't see when crimes occur, or accidents, and how this makes a difference regarding the accuracy of things like eye witness reports during criminal trials.

This actually ties into proofreading, oddly enough! As a sighted proofreader, when I have a book that has odd scannos in it that aren't predictable (such as commas inserted in the wrong places as a space comma space because the book was old and has lots of dirty extraneous spots on the pages) I will often read a page backwards--that is, from the bottom right hand corner of the page to the upper left hand corner of the page. I do that because sighted readers don't really read word by word. They learn to read by groups of words at once, words that usually go together in a flow. Because of this, you can miss these kinds of errors. The brain sees what it expects to see -- the incorrect comma is the invisible gorilla. When a sighted person reads a page backwards, they aren't reading in the way we think about reading. The content doesn't make sense. Instead, it forces the sighted reader's brain to look at each word and each bit of punctuation as separate entities, not as language per se. I didn't come up with this as a way to find errors on a page by myself, by the way. smile. It was a technique explained in a university course I took on speed reading, which also covered proofreading technical material and when not to speed read.

Judy s.
On 6/23/2012 2:14 PM, Roger Loran Bailey wrote:
As a matter of fact, both selective hearing and selective seeing are necessities. Imagine yourself on a busy street and you are trying to have a conversation. What if every sound that entered your ears was just as important as every other sound? Would you be able to have the conversation at all? Of course you wouldn't. The same goes for sight. There is so much to see in a single glance at anything that if every detail was as important to you as any other detail then you would not be able to process it all and you might as well be blind. It is necessary to pick out the details that are important to you and ignore the rest. And again, that is why a description cannot possibly be as good as a picture. The person doing the describing filters out the important details and mentions those. If you were the one seeing the picture you might very well have different ideas about what was important, but if you only hear another person's description you will never even know about those details.
On 6/23/2012 1:50 PM, Chela Robles wrote:
Wow this is amazing, I have sighted friends and never knew they had selective seeing kind of like some people I know have selective hearing. Hmmm, going to ponder this too!

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