Third Year Project : Change Blindness

Johannes M. Zanker, j.zanker@rhul.ac.uk


A huge range of possibilities for a research project can build on the phenomenon of change blindness. In order to notice changes in an image or a movie scene, an observer has to attend to particular objects or features. It can take very long until human observers detect even substantial changes in images, if their attention is interrupted or distracted during the change. This effect is investigated extensively all around the world for a wide range of conditions. One interesting, and still open question is how the familiarity with disappearing objects (for example, faces) does affect the ability to detect such changes - a question that could be addressed in comparatively simple third year projects. You can investigate questions like: How long does it take to notice that the striker of your favorite football team is exchanged by some unknown person? Is this different for the team you dislike? Or does it matter if you are not interested in football at all?

reading starter: Rensink, RA ‘Change Detection’, Annual Review of Psychology, 53: 245-277. 2002


Here is one idea for a variety of experiments, which are related to the general problem of change blindness, which we could call it the 'Kremlin Wall effect', in memory of people disappearing from official photographs (and public life), like the 'retouchees' of the Soviet Polit Bureau who were purged from the party photographs take in front of the Kremlin. You may want to explore this area further, starting from the introductory references listed below, and then discuss your ideas with me.

this flickering display of Lenin and his comrades at the Second Communist international Congress (1920) has a peculiar feature:

Gorki's son (the man with the hat behind Lenin) miraculously disappears and reappears between alternations, by virtue of retouche, but not easily noticed !

It can take very long until human observers detect even substantial changes in images, if their attention is interrupted or distracted during the change. This efect is called change blindness and is investigated extensively all around the world.

One open question is how the familiarity with disapperaing objects (faces) does affect the ability to detect such changes - a question that could be addressed in comparatively simple third year projects. Have a look at the following example, which appears to be much closer to us than the Kremlin Wall...

(just in case you can't see the change - search for your third year projects course coordinator...)



additional reading:

last update 21-Feb-2006
Johannes M. Zanker