Editor’s view: Two-speed brains explain CCTV blindness

Brain researchers have discovered that if you can’t find something, like your keys, it might be because two parts of your brain are out of sync with each other.

Quite simply, the area of your brain that controls and processes visual information is out of sync with the systems in the brain responsible for movement.

While rummaging around looking for your keys, you may not be giving your visual systems enough time to catch up.

An article on NewScientist.com describes the research.

Researchers at a Canadian university gave people a number of computer-based tests to check their idea and found that people tend to move their mouse more slowly after they have made a mistake.

The theory is that although they aren’t consciously aware of making a mistake, part of their brain realises that they have done something wrong and slows things down to allow the visual systems to catch up.

I’m sure this has implications for people engaged in monitoring CCTV cameras or trawling through recordings: the visual systems can be very quick to pick out patterns in complex information – until they become overloaded with information, at which point they become less efficient at processing new images.

Research published several years ago – which is quoted extensively on the web – points to the fact that CCTV operators fail to absorb over 90% of information after they have been watching monitors for 20 minutes.

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