Careful crossing that road! Shutterstock
In a recent RAC survey, 26% of UK 1,700 motorists reported using a handheld mobile phone while driving, despite it being illegal. In response, road safety charity Brake, argued that society’s phone “addiction” can have very serious consequences.
A quick online search throws up many articles suggesting that people are “glued” to their smartphones and therefore miss important and enriching experiences and interactions going on around them.
But psychological research shows that not only do people miss things because they are staring at their phone’s screen, they also miss things when they’re looking ahead but talking on their phone. In fact, people conversing on a phone can appear to look at something yet fail to consciously detect it.
This “inattention blindness” has been demonstrated in various ways, including the famous “invisible gorilla” experiment. By focusing on one particular task (such as counting how often a basketball is passed between team members) we can miss other, highly salient events in the scene – such as a person dressed as a gorilla.