The Survival Podcast Forum

Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics => Emergency Preparations => Topic started by: swanson on February 11, 2009, 12:08:20 PM

Post by: swanson on February 11, 2009, 12:08:20 PM
SURVIVAL PRIMER; Observational Skills Part 2


Survival demands that we cultivate an educated sense of awareness.

We have to “SEE, NOT JUST LOOK.”

The problem is that the hazards present in your environment, while they can be distinctive and sometimes unusual, often do not automatically capture our attention even when we actively “look” for trouble or incongruence.

The reason for this is something psychologists refer to as Inattentional Blindness.

Here’s the wiki explanation of Inattentional Blindness:

“Inattentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness, is the phenomenon of not being able to see things that are actually there. This can be a result of having no internal frame of reference to perceive the unseen objects, or it can be the result of the mental focus or attention which cause mental distractions. The phenomenon is due to how our minds see and process information. Closely related to the subject of change blindness, it is an observed phenomenon of the inability to perceive features in a visual scene when the observer is not attending to them. That is to say that humans have a limited capacity for attention which thus limits the amount of information processed at any particular time. Any otherwise salient feature within the visual field will not be observed if not processed by attention.”

Inattentional Blindness examples

To further illustrate, here’s a test example:


What do you see?

When you “look”, the website appears disheartening: Opportunity is nowhere

However, when you “see”, the very opposite is spotted: Opportunity is now here

The way you perceive the world around you is directly affected by how you interpret what you “see”, and so is your ability to examine a hazard or problem and carry out an effective course of action.

Here’s another set of sites that provide visual examples related to inattention blindness:

1. The construction worker door study

2. Opaque gorilla from Simons and Chabris.

Remember, many hazards and threats that effect your survival won’t automatically grab your attention. You must become cognizant of just how much of your environment you miss, discount, or just plain overlook.

You might just miss the opportunity to survive if you’re just “looking” and not “seeing.”


Post by: Allerion on February 11, 2009, 12:49:11 PM
We refer to this failure to notice what is important as a focus problem.

Focusing on the wrong thing is a major contributing factor to accidents and being blindsided in almost all situations.  Focus on the guy wandering into your lane might cause you to dive over into the left lane oblivious to the vehicle that is already there.  It is  vitally important to continue to scan the big picture for new threats when dealing with what appears to be the most immediate.

Another logical error that often results in disaster is the dismissal of what we write off as unimportant information.  We may see a threat loom and then pass.  Then we go on to the next threat when the first one suddenly pops back into the picture.  A threat you THINK you have already nullified is much much less likely to be noticed if it reemerges.  Our brains sort of delete that part of what we see from the picture once we have eliminated it as a potential threat.  This error in how we think is also the basis for a lot of logic jokes like the "I met a man with seven wives" joke used in Die Hard III.  The riddle is hard to solve because the crucial information has already been written off as unimportant.  Another example is the bus story where the joke is full of figures like distance/time/number of people on/off the bus.  At the end they ask you the driver's name, which you have forgotten because you X'd it out as irrelevent information.

You counter this observation problem by continually making fresh scans of the big picture and doing your best to disgard conclusions made from the last scan.  Continued practice will allow you to become more attentive to changes in "dismissed" threats.

An additional counter to this is to constantly expand your "big picture" awareness.  For example, someone walks into your office.  As soon as the door closes when they leave they are often dismissed from your big picture and your focus goes to your next task.  Even with a glass door, often the guy who has just left is practically invisible to you because he is outside your picture AND X'd from your relevent focus.  He can practically run laps naked around outside your door and you are far less likely to notice him than if your "big picture" was the entire office instead of just the room you are in.

Just a few related tips as to why we focus on the wrong threat and how to stay alert.
Post by: swanson on February 11, 2009, 12:54:51 PM


Thanks for the additional info and post.

Excellent contribution to the topic.