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Does change blindness cause crashes?

On Behalf of | Sep 26, 2022 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Drivers need many different abilities to safely navigate the road. For example, it is important for a driver to focus and pay attention while on the road, but it is also important for them to spread their attention out and multitask when necessary.

Unfortunately, sometimes the brain gets in its own way. This is the case with change blindness.

What is change blindness?

As Frontier explained in a study, change blindness affects many facets of a person’s life. But first: what is it?

Change blindness is a natural phenomenon that allows the brain to decide what to focus on. The brain takes in an average of 2,000 pieces of information every second, but ultimately only makes the conscious mind aware of 20 of them.

In order to sort through information faster, it creates predictive models which allow the brain to accurately determine what a situation will contain.

The danger of predictive models

For driving, this is a danger because it lulls drivers into a sense of complacency. This is why many drivers go on “autopilot” when driving along routes they often travel. The brain builds predictive models knowing what to expect along this road.

However, it can then grow blind to any changes to these predictive models. This is where the possibility of crashes comes into play. The brain may not register a new and unexpected potential danger until it is too late to avoid it, such as an animal crossing the road or another car driving recklessly.

Unfortunately, in these scenarios, the brain’s inability to take in surprising details can easily work against a person.