Inattentional Blindness

Inattentional blindness refers to the paradoxical phenomenon whereby something might be entirely within our visual frame, but we do not see it, as our attention is focussed elsewhere. The classic example of inattentional blindness is described in an experiment in which participants were asked to observe a video of two basketball teams, one wearing white uniforms and one wearing black. Participants were asked to count the number of passes of the basketball made by the white team. During the short video, a person in a gorilla suit walked from left to right across the frame. In this part of the experiment, fewer than 50% of participants ‘saw’ the gorilla.16 The context of inattentional blindness emphasises the role of purposeful focussed attention and the fact that we ‘can look but fail to see’ aspects of our environment.

Role of Situation Awareness in Error Detection

Another key area of understanding is the role that situation awareness plays in the detection and management of error. Maintaining an on-going model of the actual system state, as well as having an understanding of the planned system state, enables the process whereby errors can be detected when there is a mismatch between these two models.17,18

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