People generally believe that even if we focus our attention on a task, we will be distracted by surprising things going on around us. Time and again, Simons and Chabris have shown that this isn’t true. If you are one of the few people left who hasn’t heard of their famous illusion, try this or one of many other similar tests. On the surface, this seems to be a misconception about attention rather than memory, but obviously, we only explicitly remember things that we see in the first place.
In courtrooms, a person’s honesty can be called into question is it’s deemed that they should have noticed something obvious going on around them. Such a case happened in 1995. While chasing after a suspect, a Boston policeman called Kenneth Conley ran directly past several other officers mistakenly beating another man. Conley said he didn’t see the beating, to great disbelief. He was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and sentenced to 34 months in prison. Through a staged experiment, Simons and Chabris showed that it’s entirely possible to run past a vivid beating if your mind is on other things