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: Q&A: Prue Hyman On ‘Hopes Dashed?’

For Scoop Review of Books, Alison McCulloch interviewed Prue Hyman about her new book, part of the BWB Texts series, Hopes Dashed? The Economics of Gender Inequality More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Chuck Berry (And James Comey, And Bill English)

Back when many people were still treating rock’n’roll as a passing fad – was calypso going to be the new thing? – Chuck Berry knew that it had changed popular music forever. What is even more astonishing is that this 30-ish black r&b musician from a middle class family in St Louis could manage to recreate the world of white teenagers, at a time when the very notion of a “teenager” had just been invented. More>>

Howard Davis Review:
The Baroque Fusion Of L'arpeggiata

Named after a toccata by German composer Girolamo Kapsberger, L'Arpeggiata produces its unmistakable sonority mainly from the resonance of plucked strings, creating a tightly-woven acoustic texture that is both idiosyncratic and immediately identifiable. Director Christina Pluhar engenders this distinctive tonality associated with the ensemble she founded in 2000 by inviting musicians and vocalists from around the world to collaborate on specific projects illuminated by her musicological research. More>>

African Masks And Sculpture: Attic Discovery On Display At Expressions Whirinaki

Ranging from masks studded with nails and shards of glass to statues laden with magical metal, the works are from ethnic groups in nine countries ranging from Ivory Coast to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More>>

Obituary: Andrew Little Remembers Murray Ball

“Murray mined a rich vein of New Zealand popular culture and exported it to the world. Wal and Dog and all the other Kiwi characters he crafted through Footrot Flats were hugely popular here and in Australia, Europe and North America." More>>

ALSO:

Organised Choas: NZ Fringe Festival 2017 Awards

Three more weeks of organised chaos have come to an end with the Wellington NZ Fringe Arts Festival Awards Ceremony as a chance to celebrate all our Fringe artists for their talent, ingenuity, and chutzpah! More>>

ALSO:

Wellington.Scoop: Wellington Writer Wins $US165,000 Literature Prize

Victoria University of Wellington staff member and alumna Ashleigh Young has won a prestigious Windham-Campbell Literature Prize worth USD$165,000 for her book of essays Can You Tolerate This? More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Review Of Books: We’re All Lab Rats

A couple of years ago, there were reports that Silicon Valley executives were sending their children to tech-free schools. It was a story that dripped of irony: geeks in the heart of techno-utopia rejecting their ideology when it came to their own kids. But the story didn’t catch on, and an awkward question lingered. Why were the engineers of the future desperate to part their gadgets from their children? More>>

  • CensusAtSchool - Most kids have no screen-time limits
  • Netsafe - Half of NZ high school students unsupervised online
  • Get More From Scoop

     
     

    LATEST HEADLINES

     
     
     
     
    Culture
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news