Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search

 


Looking not the same as seeing: Why Kiwis are bicycle-blind

Looking is not the same as seeing: Why Kiwis are bicycle-blind

Ask just about anyone. We all have a story to tell about the time we were driving, and “Just didn’t see him”, whether the situation involved another driver, pedestrian, cyclist, or motorcyclist. This is because looking is not the same as seeing, and no one is immune to inattentional blindness. Drivers often fail to notice unexpected events, even ones that are important. Critically though, we assume that we will notice- as long as we are looking in the right direction. We think that unexpected objects and events will “grab” our attention. We consider ourselves careful drivers, and that of course we would see a cyclist because a cyclist would just “pop out” into view. However human attention does not function in this way.

Cognitive psychologists refer to this phenomenon as the ‘illusion of attention’. People don’t see the cyclist because they aren’t looking for the cyclist. Why are Kiwis bicycle-blind? New Zealand is not a transport-by-bicycle culture, unlike many European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands where visually, bicycles outnumber cars. Most New Zealand motor vehicles drivers’ brains are not intentionally malicious, or careless towards cyclists, they just don’t see them. The Transport Agency’s latest advertising campaign attempts to “humanise” and “personalise” the cyclist, as if she was a separate category of the community. She isn’t. She most likely has a car too.

This is because New Zealand drivers are simply not exposed to cyclists frequently, consistently, and en masse. For example, if you are trying to make a difficult turn across traffic, most of the vehicles blocking your path are cars, not bicycles (or motorcycles). To some extent then, bicycles are unexpected.

How can we fix this? Bicycle safety advocates propose a number of solutions: Billboards and signs that implore people to “Look for bicycles!” may in the short term, lead drivers to adjust their expectations, and become more likely to notice a bicycle appear soon after seeing the sign. Yet after several minutes of not seeing any cyclists, their visual expectations will reset, leading them again to expect what they see most commonly- vehicles.

Encouraging cyclists to kit themselves out in high visibility gear does not address the core problem: Motor vehicle drivers not seeing cyclists is caused by what psychologists term ‘inattentional blindness’. Wearing high visibility gear will increase your visibility, for people who are looking for you to see you. Drivers fail to see cyclists precisely because they stand out. Reflective clothing helps increase visibility for cyclists, but it doesn’t override the brain’s expectations for what it thinks it is going to see.

There is one proven way to eliminate inattention blindness: Make the unexpected object or event less unexpected. Only when people regularly look for and expect cyclists will they be more likely to notice and respond. The only way to create this expectation is to have more cyclists around -which requires providing safe and designated off-road cycle paths for cyclists. The only way to make cycling safer is to make it less novel to the human brain.

Serafin Dillon

Cyclist & motor vehicle driver

Source: The research described above has been adapted from the book The invisible gorilla and other ways our intuition deceives us (2011) by Professor Christopher Chabris and Professor Daniel Simons http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 

Scoop Review Of Books: No Longer An Island

Simon Nathan reviews 'Zealandia: Our Continent Revealed': The idea that New Zealand is part of a large submerged continent is not new... There was renewed interest in the extent of offshore New Zealand from the 1970s onwards with the start of offshore drilling for oil and gas, and this was given impetus by a UN agreement which allowed countries to claim an Extended Continental Shelf (ECS). More>>

Art: Simon Denny Recreates Kim Dotcom’s Personal Effects

Who owns what? How has the internet changed our relation to the world? These are two of the many questions Simon Denny raises in the latest exhibition at the Adam Art Gallery, opening on Saturday 4 October. More>>

Theatre: The F Word: Sex Without The 'ism'

Sex without the 'ism' Okay, so the sexes are equal in the eyes of the law. What the F happens now? More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: Don’t Eat The Fish

On 'The Catch' by Michael Field What the ecologically edible lists don’t appear to take into account – and they should – is slavery... It’s not an easy read, but it’s definitely near the top of my listicle of “5 Political Books You Must Read This Year”. More>>

ALSO:

Caracals: Small Cats With Big Ears Arrive At Wellington Zoo

Visitors to Wellington Zoo will be able to see New Zealand’s first Caracals in the Zoo’s new Grassland Cats habitat, with a special visitor opening day on Saturday 27 September. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: Classics - Tales From Moominvalley
Can’t speak for the reading end of it but the Moomins ( or maybe the story about Margaret Wise Brown) were the most enjoyable subject to think about and write about during these whole first 50 issues of Werewolf. For that reason – and because the Moomins always reward re-reading – I’ve decided to reprint it. The only added element is a link to an interesting hour long documentary about Tove Jansson. More>>

ALSO:

Repping In The Pacific: All Blacks And Manu Samoa To Play Historic Apia Test

The All Blacks will play Manu Samoa in Apia on Wednesday 8 July next year as part of both teams’ preparations for Rugby World Cup 2015. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Culture
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news