Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Change Blindness ...

This is an experiment to see if participants can recognize sudden dramatic change. By this experiment 75% can not.

This reminds me of my favorite episode of LA LAW ... Harry Hamlin playing the role of attorney Michael Kuzak is cross examining a witness who claims to have seen his client (a black man who was allegedly wearing dark clothes) in a dark alley for a few seconds - committing a murder. He questions the eyewitness [paraphrased from memory]

Facing the witness:

Kuzak: "So I want to confirm, you are telling this court that you could identify my client, a black man, wearing dark clothes, in a dimly lit alley?"

Witness: "Yes."

Still facing the witness - pacing in front of her on purpose, purposely playing with his tie:

Kuzak: "How long have you been on the witness stand today?"

Witness: "I'm not sure I understand."

Attorney Kuzak stops in front of the witness, leans over the stand, purposely tucking his tie into his jacket.

Kuzak: "How long have you been here testifying today?"

Witness: "30 minutes maybe?"

Kuzak starts talking as he turns his back to the witness:

Kuzak: "You've gotten a good look at me? Would you say I'm an attractive man?"

Opposing attorney: "Relevance, your honor?"

Supreme Court Judge: "Mr. Kuzak, this court requires strict adherence to procedure, we aren't here for legal games or lolly gagging."

Kuzak turns around as the judge is speaking, agreeing to the admonishment.

Kuzak turns his back to the witness again.

Kuzak says to Witness: "What color of tie am I wearing?"

Witness: "I don't know."

Kuzak: "Can you give me a guess, a pattern, a polka dot?"

Witness: "Red striped."

Kuzak turns around (LA Law victory music cues in the background). Kuzak's tie is solid blue.

Kuzak: "This witness claims to have seen me for 30 minutes or more, yet can't even tell a single detail about my tie. It seems she can give specific details about a two or three second encounter from a 20 foot or more vantage point about a black man, wearing dark clothes, in a dimly lit alley?"

(LA Law victory music is very loud.)

Next scene shows Kuzak, in his final series appearance, and his client walking out of the court shaking hands; smiling.


One thing this should teach us is to always be observant. If you happen to be in a bank or a convenience store that may be silently robbed or if you see unusual behavior - you can't imagine how small details you give to police can lead to an arrest. It's amazing in the video, that these people didn't notice the change. It's amazing in the scenario I mentioned that the witness didn't notice the detail that was the same - even though it was being flaunted on purpose for her to notice right in front of her face.

* video via Daring Fireball

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