Inattentional blindness serves as a potentially helpful mental reflex in some cases. But in others, it actually creates a deadly problem for victims.
This is especially true when it comes to drivers, who need utmost attention while operating their vehicles.
When is inattentional blindness useful?
The American Psychological Association discusses the phenomenon of inattentional blindness. This naturally occurring reflex allows a person to focus their attention solely on one task, at the exclusion of others.
It can come in handy in certain situations. For example, a surgeon will want the ability to focus entirely on an operation, without the possibility of getting distracted by any other chaos happening in the operating room at the time. This allows medical staff to focus on important work even in the hustle of an emergency room.
Why is it a danger to drivers?
But for drivers, it poses a major problem. Drivers need their ability to multitask and focus on different things at the same time. This is what allows them to safely navigate through multiple hurdles without any one in particular creating too much of a distraction.
A driver who ends up dealing with inattentional blindness may, for example, focus on their speed to the exclusion of paying attention to a red light ahead. These mistakes can easily cause accidents in the few seconds a driver’s attention is distracted.
Unfortunately, there is not an easy way to avoid undue influence, as it is a reflexive mental mechanism. But it is possible for drivers to familiarize themselves with the problem. That way, they will notice when they become affected by hyper-fixation and can combat it accordingly.