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Bananas, Bagels, and Inattentional Blindness

Did I eat that?

Did I eat that?

Can you eat a banana without being aware of it?

On Mondays, Suellen and I go to an early morning exercise class at the University of Denver. Afterwards, we always go to the local bagel shop, have a couple of bagels, and do the New York Times crossword puzzle. (Monday is the easy day for the puzzle. They get harder throughout the week. Sunday is impossible.)

This morning we bought our pair of bagels and Suellen decided to add a banana to our standard fare. We then sat down and began to eat while also working on the crossword puzzle. I was working hard on my bagel and the puzzle. I thought Suellen was, too.

Some ten minutes later, Suellen held up the empty banana peel, looked at me, and asked, “Did I eat this?” Apparently she had though neither of us remembered it. We looked at the tables around us and couldn’t identify anyone who might have stolen the banana and left only the peel. It must have been the Freckled Beauty.

So, does this mean we’re senile? Hardly. It’s a good example, however, of inattentional blindness, something I’ve written about before. When you’re concentrating on something, a lot of other things can slip right past you. It’s a good reason to be suspicious of eyewitnesses and your own memory.

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