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Fridge Blindness


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Ronan's report

Sunday November 20th, 2010

Sometimes you can be looking so hard for something that you can't see it when it's right there under your nose.

Bloke: Where's the milk?
Girlfriend: There in the fridge.
Bloke: Nope can't see it, I think we've run out.
Girlfriend: I know it's there, on the shelf.
Bloke (staring hard into the fridge): Nope.

Girlfriend angrily pushes bloke aside and magically lifts out the full pint of milk that moments before was totally invisible.

Fridge Blindness.

It's the same with fish.

Guide: Bonefish! Forty feet. Eleven O'clock. See it?
Client: Ummm...
Guide: It's there, just past that dark patch; moving right. It's now at Twelve O'clock. Can you see it?
Client (waving the rod vaguely at 12:00): Over there?
Guide: Yep, cast now!

Client then lets fly at where he thinks the guide was pointing and nicely lines the now-spooked and embarrassingly visible bonefish, much to the chagrin of the guide who's just spent the last two hours stalking that fish.

How does that happen? Well, I think there is such a thing as "looking too hard". Sometimes you're so caught up in worrying about not-seeing anything that you don't give yourself enough space to actually spot the damn thing you're after. Try relaxing a bit and give your brain a chance to catch up with your eyes.

It's also about believing that the thing you're looking for is actually there - sceptics find it easy to reinforce their scepticism. But if you really are expecting to see that big brownie on the tail of the pool, you're much more likely to follow the clues.

Also, great fish-spotters learn to use their peripheral vision. I think our eyes are well tuned to picking up movement on the edges of our field of view; a pretty handy evolutionary adaptation for spotting prey and avoiding predators. When your eyes pick up something out at the edges of your field of view you don't automatically register it, but you may just have a feeling that something's changed. Listening to these feelings can result in you spotting a fish before it spots you; which can only be a good thing. Unless you actually like watching bow-waves from spooked fish...

None of this explains the magical conjuring-of-the-milk trick however, but I tell you what: Those scientists at CERN looking for all those quantum particles with their expensive Large Hadron Collider? I bet if they'd just ask their girlfriends, they'd find all the Higgs-Bosens they need right there, on the shelf, next to the milk.


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