Based on my experience growing up in the U.S. most of us, most boys at least, had heard that a certain sexual activity causes blindness. Of course in adulthood we realized that the story was just that, a story. Although I'm sure there's a few who only 'got that' by experience.
And now a new study conducted by Vanderbilt University psychologist David Zald and Yale University researchers Steven Most, Marvin Chun and David Widders finds that erotic images can cause a form of temporary blindness! Ouch! Who would have thunk it? Apparently violent images can do the same.
Now I know through my European friends that many there are shocked by how much the US loves violence, mostly in the media, thank God. And it's also true that many Americans are shocked by what they view as an overly open attitude toward sex in some parts of Europe. Who knows what the rest of the world thinks.
So it appears we all have a problem here. I've seen some billboards in the French West Indies that could have us all walking around like zombies. Worse still, Driving like zombies. OK, OK, it's not that bad. The blindness in only momentary according to the study. Mere tenths of a second.
They call it emotion-induced blindness. The researchers say that it could cause a driver not to see Driving conditions just after seeing an accident or sexually explicit billboard. Didn't I tell you? Zombies!
Of course it's more serious than that. The thing not seen might be a pedestrian or another car. An accident could be caused. It's something to be taken seriously, for sure.
The researchers for the study told of a bottleneck. No, were not talking liquor here. That would account for some erratic behavior though. No, the bottle neck is in our neural processing. The brain.
As fast as thoughts fly through our minds humans really only process one bit of information at a time. So the first bit has to wait for the second bit to finish before taking it's turn. Then when a violent or erotic image is seen the bottleneck becomes even more jammed. The next bit is missed entirely. Thats momentary blindness.
The way they demonstrated this was by showing a series of images. Mostly landscapes, called neutral images. One of the images was designated the target. It was a neutral image turned on it's side. The participant was supposed to find it. Easy!
But they also slipped in a violent or erotic image to see if it interfered with finding the target image. This is the negative image. They found that when the negative image preceded the target closely, when it was, say, one or two images before the target, people couldn't see the target!
OK now we've got good news and bad news. It turns out that not all people react the same when they see a violent or erotic image. Those who tend to be more fearful, careful and cautions are more susceptible to this blindness. Whereas those who are more carefree or comfortable in dangerous situations are not.
Yes, this is quite a bit to get our minds around. And its kind of ironic that if we are a more cautions person that we might be slightly more inclined toward emotion-induced blindness. But it does explain a lot.
It explains some oddities occurring on my way to the office in the morning. There can be an accident on the far side of the highway. Six lanes away! But everyone on my side of the road slows to a stop to get an eye-full. Then, ever so slowly mind you, we creep back up to full speed.
It explains something else too. When we pass a construction site in the summer, and all those super-fit guys with no shirts are working away, our car behaves erratically when my wife is driving!
And what about the guy who sees a girl hitchhiking on the side of the road? She raises her skirt to expose her thigh a little and, voila! The man becomes a zombie!
Well, for a moment anyway.
Well there we are. Hopefully this will make us and advertisers more aware of what's happening on the road. With this knowledge we can make some adjustments. And I'm sure we all hope that makes us a little safer.