Monday, February 11, 2013

Hammer time!

NPR reports the startling news that people who train their attention on a search for something, will often overlook other objects in the search process!

In other words, what we're thinking about — what we're focused on — filters the world around us so aggressively that it literally shapes what we see. And so, Drew says, we need to think carefully about the instructions we give to professional searchers like radiologists or people looking for terrorist activity, because what we tell them to look for will in part determine what they see and don't see.
Which is a classic statement of the "No shit, Sherlock!" variety.  And the fact that it comes from a scientist makes it even funnier.  Not because science is immediately suspect or once again, by this tiny example, proven flawed and broken.  But really: this is an insight?  We needed a carefully controlled scientific study to tell us that you find what you're looking for, and overlook evidence hiding in plain sight?  I mean, we even have phrases for that, like:  "Hiding in plain sight."

Anyone with a passing knowledge of detective stories, or even a literary education,  could have told these guys you see what you are looking for, and overlook whatever doesn't fit your expectations.  There's yet another saying for the related problem of a narrow vision that sees only what it allows itself to see:  "To the man with a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail."

Science marches on!

1 comment:

  1. NPR hauled out the old Gorilla thing again? Last time I heard that on NPR was as a means of excusing cops who witnessed other cops savagely beating up one of their colleagues who happened to be black. NPR recycles stuff like those check out counter women's magazines do these days. There must be come kind of research to do figuring out how many times they put that in a story as well as Leon Fleischer's repetitive stress injury, "As Time Goes By" (probably Stamburg again), and Les Paul.

    I think from this we can make conclusions about people in gorilla costumes at sporting events and people trying to apply that to things not known to be related to ersatz gorillas appearing at sporting events in order to claim that whatever they want to explain is "scientifically explained". The credulity of journalists for that kind of stuff is astounding.