Motion Induced Blindness, how to avoid it.

This article has been travelling on my laptop for around 5 days. Was originally sent by a friend and I started writing a story around it, as I usually do, until this sad event happened.  Nobody wants to post “sad examples” about this kind of stories, but sadly we had one last Saturday when fellow colleagues died in a mid-air collision in British Columbia, Canada.

 

Almost every experienced pilot had an unwanted close encounter with another aircraft during his career, a “close mid-air or near miss”.  Following a TCAS – RA, I had one, not long ago, in congested air space during the approach phase and I can tell the Airbus 340 looks pretty big in the air.  I always wondered how those aces from WWII did to spot enemy aircraft or “bandits” at 20 NM apart.  Is very hard to see another aircraft in the air, especially if is approaching us in a collision course.  It may look as a small stain in the windshield, until it gets bigger…

I would like to talk here about a phenomenon very frequent in aviation and in moving vehicles known as Motion Induced Blindness (MIB).  It refers to the visual disappearance or perceptual illusions in which stationary visual stimuli disappear as if erased in front of an observer’s eyes when masked with a moving background.

 

Is one of the reasons why people in cars can look right at you (when you’re on a moving motorcycle or bicycle) and not see you.

 

This is why military pilots are taught to scan the horizon for a short distance, stop momentarily, and repeat the process; this is the most effective technique to locate other aircraft.  Do not stare for more than a couple of seconds in any single object, keep your eyes moving and turn your head constantly.

 

Remember, see be seen and avoid!

In this demonstration the observer focuses at the flickering green dot in the middle. After about 10 seconds, the observer sees one, two or all three of the static yellow dots arranged at the corners of an imaginary equilateral triangle disappear and then reappear. These disappearances and reappearances continue at random for as long as the observer cares to look.

In this demonstration the observer focuses at the flickering green dot in the middle. After about 10 seconds, the observer sees one, two or all three of the static yellow dots arranged at the corners of an imaginary equilateral triangle disappear and then reappear. These disappearances and reappearances continue at random for as long as the observer cares to look.

 

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