Do you have change blindness?

So about ten days ago, I got a haircut. 

Like most guys, I do this once every 6-8 weeks. When you do the math, that means I've gotten somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 haircuts in my lifetime. 

It's basically the same haircut each and every time. Short on the sides and back, a few inches of blond hair on top. Always parted to the left side of my head. ALWAYS TO THE LEFT. Photographical evidence below:

What can I say? I'm not a very adventurous guy when it comes to hair styles. At my age, I'm thrilled I still even have hair.

But something weird happened during my last haircut. I fell asleep in the chair.

Maybe not totally asleep, but I drifted off quite a bit. This didn't bother my hair stylist in the least, who proceeded to cut my hair the best she could with a half asleep guy in her chair and 10 other guys in line for their haircuts.

When she said "All done", I abruptly woke up, sat up and looked at myself in the mirror and immediately noticed something was off. She cut my hair with it parted to the other (right) side of my head. TO THE RIGHT. I looked SO different.

I was in a hurry so I didn't bother telling her and just headed home with the intent of taking a shower and fixing it myself. But when I tried parting it back to it's normal side, it just looked like a super shitty haircut.

So I embraced it. After 39 plus years of parting it the exact same way, I decided to switch it up.

Now I personally thought this was going to ROCK THE WORLD OF ALL THOSE AROUND ME.

"Everyone's going to notice. I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks about this. NEW BEN EVERYBODY!!!" - Me about 10 minutes into my new haircut.

I started with my wife. A woman who's spent more time looking at me than any other human on earth. The love of my life. My soulmate. And what did she think?

Nothing.

She didn't notice. 

"Okay. She's pregnant. Pregnant brain!!" - Me, rationalizing why my awesome new haircut wasn't immediately received with praise.

On to my friends. I spent a lot of time with some of my closest friends last weekend and I couldn't wait to hear their thoughts on my new haircut. Especially the wives, who are all quite stylish. 

Except they didn't notice either. Any of them. AT ALL.

Neither did my CrossFit friends who see me every morning. Although in their defense, we're bros, it's 5 am and I usually have major bedhead.

Neither did my team at work who sit in a room with me 40 hours a week

Each time I thought surely someone would notice and say something. But nada. zilch. zippo.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? (Besides the fact that I'm apparently quite vain.)

This is actually a fairly common occurrence called "change blindness". 

Change blindness, according to Wikipedia so it must be true, is is a surprising perceptual phenomenon that occurs when a change in a visual stimulus is introduced and the observer does not notice it. For example, observers often fail to notice major differences introduced into an image while it flickers off and on again.

This is why you don't notice when your spouse gets a haircut. (Guys you now have an official excuse. You're welcome.)

This is also why you don't notice when someone close to you gains or loses a lot of weight over a long period of time. (Gradual change over time is a very common form of change blindness.) 

Do you have change blindness?

There's a fun test you can take to see how good you are at observing change. The test flashes two pictures that have one major difference and you race to see how quickly you can figure it out. For the record, I was HORRIBLE at this. It took me several seconds to figure each one out.

Go Gognitive: Change Blindness Test

[Sorry mobile phone users, you'll need a desktop computer to take this one. So forward this on to your work email and take it Monday morning!]

Assignment for the week:

Change blindness has rampant implications all over the place from marriages to friendships to workplaces. It's important to recognize that people aren't great at recognizing change. 

In fact, people that are overly confident in their ability to detect change have what's called change blindness blindness :)

So, here's your super simple assignment for the week:

What changes around you have you not been observing?

For further exploration:

Now You See It, Now You Don't: 'Change Blindness' Isn't Magic: This Science Daily article breaks down the small part of your brain that's responsible for observing changes - the parietal cortex.

Selective Attention Test: Here's another classic test created by Harvard University that 50% of people fail. I actually passed this one :)

What I'm listening to:

95 degrees in Denver this week!