EFFECT OF WORKING MEMORY LOAD ON CHANGE BLINDNESS

EFFECT OF WORKING MEMORY LOAD ON CHANGE BLINDNESS

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ABSTRACT

The mind only knows what the eyes see. Even though seeing is so important still our eyes miss at times.

 

Objective: Previous studies clearly indicate change blindness occurs and is very common even in surprisingly very obvious changes. This study is done to investigate its relation with working memory capacity, which was pointed as an important influencing factor for change blindness in previous studies. It is hypothesized that subjects will detect visual changes slower if their working memory load is high. Lower change blindness is expected if participants have lower memory load and higher change blindness is expected if the memory load is high.

 

Methods: 30 participants between the age of 18-50 were tested and analyzed. The only criteria was age exclusion. Opportunity sampling was done. 3 change blindness flicker paradigms were used and participants were divided into 3 groups of no, low and high workload. The results were analyzed in SPSS with ANOVA test.

 

Results: It was seen that participants with high workload took considerably more time to notice a change in the pictures as compared to no workload group.

Conclusion- The results clearly indicate that the working memory load is directly proportional to change blindness, i.e. high work load leaves a low working memory available which in turn increases the chances of change blindness. Hence, our results prove the hypothesis.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

God gifted us with five marvelous senses. Among those, eyes are considered to be the most delicate and one of our most prized possessions. However, even these priceless eyes falter at times, either by missing an important detail or making us believe that we saw something which actually was not there.

Change blindness is one among many such events. It is a phenomenon during which we fail to detect changes either small or large in a visual scene. Even though the first mention regarding this was way back in 1890, in a William James book ‘Principles of Psychology’ (Simons and Levin, 1997), the first laboratory study of change blindness started in the 1970s (McConkie and Rayner, 1976). The study involved changes in words and texts; important to note is that the changes were made while the subject performed a saccadic eye movement (quick movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation). Subjects often failed to notice these changes. However, it was in the 1990’s that the research took a great leap forward with the help of technology. This research was taken forward by John Grimes and Dr. George McConkie (1996) who started studying visual stability with the use of real time photographs and hence took change blindness researches and trials out of the laboratory and into the real world. Many studies have agreed that change blindness exists. A study was done where a person asks for help and with the inference of a distracter, the person was changed and half of the people failed to realize this change (Simons and Levin, 1998).

In other studies, it was seen that not all changes in a visual were detected with the same success rate. The most commonly detected changes were the ones in the central region. (Rensink et al., 1997) Other frequent detections were probable changes, context-related changes, and changes occurring within a figure. It was also found that changes inconsistent changes (with respect to the whole scene) are detected faster than the consistent one’s (Hollingsworth & Henderson, 2000), expected changes faster than unexpected ones (Beck et al., 2004), changes in a figure or the foreground  were found more frequently and faster as compared to background changes (Mazza et al., 2002; Turatto et al., 2005). Interestingly,  In the visuals where changes were in close proximity to a figure, most of the subjects could not detect the change. This stipulates that parts of the visuals close to the main attraction of the image were shadowed.

Various studies also found out the relation of change blindness to different factors, for example; link to attention and awareness, memory capacity, eye movement etc. (Bridgeman, Heijden and Velichkovsky, 1994). When a visual stimulus is present, the attention is found to depend on the working memory available to make a relevant selective attention. This led researchers to conduct more researches to analyze the effect of working memory load on inattentional blindness (eg. Fougnie and Marois, 2007).

Change is the only constant in the world. Hence, detecting changes is not only important, but at times very valuable. A mere mistake of not noticing a relevant change can even cost someone his life as it happens in many road traffic accidents. To detect these changes eyes play an integral role and we need to understand them better in order to avoid any such mishaps. However, very few researches are available in regards to change blindness and its connection to memory load due to which we have insufficient knowledge and consideration in the literature regarding this topic. The study was done to find whether or not this relation between the two exists and if yes, what is the strength and how are they related? There have been assumptions made prior to study. Participants at high work load group will take longer to detect changes in visual stimuli than participants at low work load group and control group of no work load. Lower change blindness is expected when participants are exposed to lower mental memory load and higher change blindness is expected when participants are exposed to higher mental memory load. Another assumption made is there will be a gender difference for detection changes.

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