Monday morning my local NPR station (KERA 90.1) played a story "Why Seeing (The Unexpected) Is Often Not Believing" http://www.npr.org/2011/06/20/137086464/why-seeing-the-unexpected-is-often-not-believing. Psychologists Chabris and Simons conducted an experiment on inattention for two years. Participants were asked to jog down a path, remaining focused on the jogger in front of them. Both in light and in night hours, Chabris staged fights near the path to see if the participants would notice. The results were astounding. Only 33% noticed anything at night, 40% in broad daylight. These two psychologists conducted another famous experiment with basketballs and a wandering gorilla http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo. Both these experiments suggest that we overlook obvious things, especially if we are focused on a task.
In our search for the best method for obtaining and maintaining mental health, most of us miss the gorilla, me included. I experienced my own version of unintentional blindness last week with my teenage son. Thursday night I returned from a conference on suicide prevention. My son met me with the hostile curtness parents of teens dread. Mom, back off, he snarled with a look that could melt steel. Normally, my son is a great kid. Happy, smart, funny, good-looking - okay I'm completely biased. But Friday I almost got a plane ticket to head back out of town. I complained mercilessly to my husband Ken when he returned from a business trip Friday night.