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Saturday 25 April 2015

Inattentional Blindness

Recently I presented to my teammates on Inattentional Blindness, having caught myself falling victim to it a couple of times. (Don't know how many times I fell victim and didn't catch myself, of course.)

Like a lot of testers I'm very interested in the cognitive factors which influence testing, and issues such as self-delusion. Very interested - but definitely not an expert. And a good way to consolidate what you know on a topic is to try explaining it to others.

Sharing with the team
For a while I had thought about leading some kind of presentation/discussion in the team. Not because I like presenting - I don't - but because I felt there were ideas which made testing interesting for me but that the team maybe weren't so familiar with.

I felt "IB" would be a good intro to the area of cognition and thinking skills. And I also saw an opportunity to talk about exploratory testing - doing that had been on my mind for a while and was given a good nudge by Karen Johnson's session at the TestBash Workshop Day 2015.

So I gave the guys my take on how Inattentional Blindness influences testing. And - whilst stressing that I wasn't claiming expertise - what techniques I thought we might use to reduce its impact.

The presentation
I tried summarising the content of the presentation in this post but it was going to be way too long - and not particularly original if you're familiar with the subject.  Instead I'll highlight some of the material I used to put my presentation together.
My slides are available on Slideshare for those with a morbid curiosity, and I'll embed them at the foot of this post.

I introduced the concept with this video (which I came across on the edX "Science of Everyday Thinking" course):

Inattentional Blindness is a pretty clunky term - not even easy to pronounce - but an example like that makes the concept clear to everyone. 

On the specifics of how we believe vision works, and how it really works, I used an extract from this Daniel Simons talk - "Seeing the World as it Isn't".  (The section I used is from 3:20 to 5:10 - but the whole video is only c 7mins and well worth watching)

And I have to make special mention of this cracking example of Inattentional Blindness in testing which Del Dewar ( ; @deefex ) kindly sent me:

For a final piece of audience participation I used the subject of Focus/Defocus as an excuse to introduce the star of TestBash 3 - the spinning cat.

Some of the team had seen it before but it was still fun to find what works for different people to change the direction of spin they perceive.

Cut-price Derren Brown
I tried my own amateur experiment by having "Inattentional Blindness" as a footer on my slides - but on 2 or 3 of them changing it to "Inattentional Biscuits".  I was interested to see whether anyone spotted it and, if no-one did, whether I would have Derren Brown-ed the team into craving biscuits but not knowing why.

As it turned out my colleague Anna spotted the change at the first opportunity (to be fair, as she was sitting at the front she had the best chance) and collected the 50p prize. (Which I funded out of my own pocket, I'll have you know. Who says Scots are mean?)

Following up
It's hard for me to say if the presentation went well or not. I have the kind of personality that means I fixate on what I forgot to mention, or where I felt I should have been clearer.
The team seemed to find it interesting, though, and I've overheard a couple of references back to the themes since.

What was very encouraging was that in the morning before I had even given this presentation my manager had asked me to think about doing something further with the team on my experiences with Exploratory Testing.

Good news. But at the moment I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed working out where to start on that one ..... 


Inattentional blindness from caltonhill

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