Seeing things that others miss
Another well-known perceptual phenomenon is called inattentional blindness. People experience this when they are so focused on one thing that they completely fail to see something else right before their eyes.
In a famous illustration of this perceptual glitch, participants were asked to watch a short video of people tossing a basketball to one another, and to track the total number of passes between the players wearing white.
Try this out yourself, before reading further!
During the video, a person in a gorilla costume wanders into centre stage, indulges in a little chest-beating, and then schleps off again. Did you see it? If not, you are not alone. Roughly half of the 192 participants in the original study completely failed to see the costumed figure.
But why did some people experience inattentional blindness in this study when others didn’t? The answer to this question came in a recent follow-up study showing that your susceptibility to inattentional blindness depends on your personality: open people are more likely to see the gorilla in the video clip.
Once again, it seems that more visual information breaks through into conscious perception for people high in openness — they see the things that others screen out.
Opening our minds: is more better?
It might seem as if open people have been dealt a better hand than the rest of us. But can people with uncreative personalities broaden their limited vistas, and would this be a good thing?
There is mounting evidence that personality is malleable, and increases in openness have been observed in cognitive training interventions and studies of the effects of psilocybin (the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms).
Openness also increases for students who choose to study overseas, confirming the idea that travel broadens the mind.
So despite its appeal, there may be a slippery slope between seeing more and seeing things that are not there.
So, from different personalities emerge different experiences, but we should always remember that one person’s view is not necessarily better than another’s.