"Failures of Visual Awareness"
How much of our visual world do we really see? Recent studies of how people perceive and remember the visual world have revealed striking failures of visual awareness. For example, people often fail to notice large changes to visual scenes when those changes occur during a brief disruption or distraction. Such failures of awareness suggest that we perceive far less of our surroundings than we might otherwise think. And, this disparity between what we see and what we think we see can have striking real-world consequences. This talk will give numerous examples of such failures of awareness, illustrating how the mechanisms and limitations of visual attention constrain what we see. It will also discuss the positive functional role of attention in performance, noting how failures of awareness are a necessary (albeit unfortunate) byproduct of human visual perception.
Daniel J. Simons received his B.A. from Carleton College and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Cornell University. He taught cognitive psychology on the faculty at Harvard University for 5 years before joining the psychology department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he is a professor of psychology and head of the visual cognition laboratory at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Professor Simons received the 2003 American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution for his work on change detection and visual attention. He has edited two journal special issues on failures of awareness, and he currently serves on six scientific editorial boards. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, General Motors, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Prof. Simons' research interests span many areas in visual perception and attention, including scene perception, visual memory, change detection, distraction, inattention and automobile safety, and spatial cognition. His research has uncovered critical examples of failures of awareness with both theoretical and practical consequences. Research in his laboratory adopts approaches ranging from traditional human psychophysical approaches with simplified displays to studies of perception in real-world contexts. He has given many "general audience" talks, and examples from his research are exhibited in more than a dozen science museums internationally.