September 2018
Volume 18, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2018
Expectation Blindness: Seeing a face when there is none.
Author Affiliations
  • Muge Erol
    New School for Social Research
  • Arien Mack
    New School for Social Research
  • Jason Clarke
    New School for Social Research
Journal of Vision September 2018, Vol.18, 1115. doi:
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      Muge Erol, Arien Mack, Jason Clarke; Expectation Blindness: Seeing a face when there is none.. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1115. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Inattentional blindness (IB) is the failure to see an unexpected stimulus under conditions of inattention. Here we describe a correlative phenomenon, expectation blindness: blindness to the absence of an expected stimulus. Previously we described an experiment in which 80% of observers reported an absent, expected, simple stimulus (a colored circle) as present (Erol et al., 2016). This also was true when the expected stimulus was a letter matrix (Mack et al., 2015). The current study demonstrates the same phenomenon with a highly salient stimulus, which is resistant to IB (Mack & Rock, 1998) and might be resistant to expectation blindness. Using an IB procedure with 16 trials in the inattention, 5 in the divided and 4 in the full attention condition in which a face was present at fixation, 15 Os reported whether 4 color bisected circles surrounding the face were the same or one was different. On the 3 critical trials, the last trial in each condition, the face was absent, while for 15 control Os it was present. After reporting the circles, Os were immediately asked whether they had seen anything other than the circles. When the face was absent, 73.3% reported seeing a face in the inattention, 46.7% in the divided, and 0% in the full attention condition. When the face was present, 66.7% reported seeing it in the inattention condition, 93.3% with divided and 100% with full attention. When the face was absent, there was a significant decrease in the frequency of reporting a face as attention to the location of the face increased (χ2(2)=16.909, p = .000). The reverse was true when the face was present (χ2(2)=7.000, p = .030). These results demonstrate the enormous power of an incidentally developed expectation, which is strong enough to cause us to see a face in its absence.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018


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