Research in the SimonsLab explores the mechanisms of attention, perception, memory, and thinking. We adopt methods ranging from real-world and video-based approaches to computer-based psychophysical techniques, and we use basic behavioral measures, eye tracking, simulator studies, and training studies. This diversity of approaches helps establish closer links between basic research on the mechanisms of the mind and the practical consequences and implications of those findings in our daily lives. You can view stimuli and demonstrations from some of our research on this site's videos page
When people focus on a task that demands their attention, they often fail to notice unexpected objects and events that occur in full view. This phenomenon is known as "inattentional blindness" because people typically do not concsiously perceive aspects of their world that fall outside of the focus of their attention. These events can be dramatic enough that the vast majority of people are convinced that they would notice. In reality, though, many people do not. Our laboratory's inattentional blindness research addresses the following questions, among others:
- Do people differ in their ability to notice unexpected events?
- How do expectations contribute to noticing unexpected events?
- What is the relationship between the detection of expected events and the detection of unexpected events?
- How do our intuitions about attention differ from the reality?
- How does inattentional blindness contribute to real-world problems like distracted driving?
People fail to notice surprisingly large changes to their visual world when those changes occur during a brief moment of distraction. Under normal viewing conditions, changes to a scene produce a signal that can grab our attention. However, when that change signal is hidden by any sort of disruption (a flashed blank screen, an eye movement, a cut from one view to another in a movie), people can and do miss large changes. Critically, people are largely unaware of this limitation -- most people are convinced that they will notice changes that, in reality, few people do. We are aware of far less of our visual world than we think. Our laboratory's change blindness research addresses the following questions, among others:
- Do people differ in their ability to detect changes?
- How much information do people keep in mind when they fail to detect a change?
- What information do people notice and retain by default when looking at visual scenes?
- How much information can people perceive and remember from one moment to the next?
Our laboratory investigates a broad range of topics in cognitive psychology, visual attention, and awareness. In addition to our primary lines of research on visual attention and awareness, lab members have also conducted research on many other topics, including:
- driving and distraction
- interactions between touch and vision
- visual long term memory
- boundary extension and memory distortions
- scene perception and segmentation
- links between depression and attention
- the effects of videogames on cognition