Chuck also gave me some very good advice to help avoid future encounters with cars. He said, "Ride like you're invisible." In other words, never assume someone sees you, even if they are staring straight at you. Sometimes motorists look directly at cyclists, he explained, but don't see them because they are so focused on scanning for other cars. It sounds like folksy bike store owner advice, but the inability of motorists to see cyclists (and pedestrians) may be due to something called "change-blindness," which is described here. A snip:
So, folks focusing on basketball passes don't see gorillas on the court and motorists watching exclusively for other cars may not see cyclists, even if they look them in the face and thump their chests. I think a possible cure for change-blindness is to get more gorillas on the court. Perhaps then, drivers won't focus so narrowly on spotting other cars. Looks like there will be plenty of cyclists on the street this weekend. Nonetheless, I'm still going to pretend I'm invisible.
Working with Christopher Chabris at Harvard University, Simons came up with another demonstration that has now become a classic, based on a videotape of a handful of people playing basketball. They played the tape to subjects and asked them to count the passes made by one of the teams.
Around half failed to spot a woman dressed in a gorilla suit who walked slowly across the scene for nine seconds, even though this hairy interloper had passed between the players and stopped to face the camera and thump her chest.
However, if people were simply asked to view the tape, they noticed the gorilla easily. The effect is so striking that some of them refused to accept they were looking at the same tape and thought that it was a different version of the video, one edited to include the ape.