Change blindness in the absence of a visual disruption

Perception. 2000;29(10):1143-54. doi: 10.1068/p3104.


Findings from studies of visual memory and change detection have revealed a surprising inability to detect large changes to scenes from one view to the next ('change blindness'). When some form of disruption is introduced between an original and modified display, observers often fail to notice the change. This disruption can take many forms (e.g. an eye movement, a flashed blank screen, a blink, a cut in a motion picture, etc) with similar results. In all cases, the changes are sufficiently large that, were they to occur instantaneously, they would consistently be detected. Prior research on change blindness was predicated on the assumption that, in the absence of a visual disruption, the signal caused by the change would draw attention, leading to detection. In two experiments, we demonstrate that change blindness can occur even in the absence of a visual disruption. In one experiment, subjects actually detected more changes with a disruption than without one. When changes are sufficiently gradual, the visible change signal does not seem to draw attention, and large changes can go undetected. The findings are discussed in the context of metacognitive beliefs about change detection and the strategic decisions those beliefs entail.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*