Selective attention examples are intriguing and offer an important learning point for managers (they’re also fun to share!).
We know from cognitive psychology that our attention is a limited and selective resource.
You can think of attention as a flashlight in a darkened room. As your flashlight moves around, it picks up items that are of interest to you and allows you to ‘pay attention’. However, the flip side is that most of the room is in darkness!
William James, one of the earliest psychologists to study attention defined attention as:
Our ability to attend to one stimulus, when multiple stimuli are going on around us.
For example, in a busy office, we ‘tune out’ all the conversations going on around us and pay attention to the conversation that we’re in. (Or we tune out all the conversations around us and focus on the email we’re writing.)
This ability to focus on one thing and tune out all others is important to our success, but it has risks!
Selective attention examples
Probably one of the most famous psychological tests ever, this selective attention example was developed by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. You may well
have seen it before:
If you are familiar with this first test, look at this second video, it has additional examples of selective attention:
A more recent selective attention example recreates earlier work, also by Simons and Chabris. There are several elements to this test, making it a surprising and entertaining video:
These last two selective attention examples are similar in nature. Again, each one containing several elements. These are older videos but still very entertaining: