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The Case of Inattentional Blindness

During a conversation between a man and an eagle the eagle said to the man:

“What is it that worries you most about the future?”

The man replied:

“I am worried that there won’t be jobs for my children, about how I’m going to pay off my debts and about whether I’ll have enough money in my old age.”

The eagle thought for a time and responded:

“I feel for you, they are obviously real concerns and are important to you but from on high, where I fly, I see forests disappearing, water sources drying and food sources diminishing. I witness bushfires that wipe out habitat and entire colonies of wildlife. I see populations of man expanding like a plague changing the face of the earth forever whilst entire species disappear from the face of the earth.”

The man thought about what the eagle had said. He had heard about all the things that the Eagle spoke of but because they did not appear to impact on him directly in his day to day life he had developed a condition called “inattentional blindness”*, a condition where he failed to see something that was in plain sight.

The eagle realised that whilst the man showed concern at the time of their conversation he would forget it very quickly and go on as normal. It would always be the case that the man would only ever be able to see what was directly in front of his nose and that he was hamstrung by his inability to fly high, see great distances or focus on issues that he did not see as impacting himself directly.

As the Eagle flew away he shook his feathered head knowing that his conversation with the man had been a waste of time and effort. He realised that no amount of knowledge and wisdom can overcome inattentional blindness and intrenched self interest.

*Inattention blindness - Arien Mack and Irvin Rock published by MIT press1998


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