For the last week of December, we’re re-posting some of our favorite posts from 2011.

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Jay Livingston, at MontClair SocioBlog, alerted me to a fascinating phenomenon called “change blindness.”  The term refers to the fact that people must choose what to pay attention to in any given setting. Accordingly, when the details they’ve decided aren’t important change, they don’t notice. This often includes the very people they are interacting with.
In an experiment by psychologist Daniel Simons, an assistant behind a counter, pretending to sign students in for an experiment, is surreptitiously replaced by another person. A full three-quarters of the people don’t notice. Awesome:

Here is a shorter illustration of a similar experiment with the same results (pictured above):

If you haven’t had enough yet, here’s one more example that shows that you can even switch race and gender and it still works!

See also our post on Privilege and Perception.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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