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Friday, November 5, 2021

Invisible gorillas in the mind: Internal inattentional blindness and the prospect of introspection training

Morris, A. (2021, September 26).


Much of high-level cognition appears inaccessible to consciousness. Countless studies have revealed mental processes -- like those underlying our choices, beliefs, judgments, intuitions, etc. -- which people do not notice or report, and these findings have had a widespread influence on the theory and application of psychological science. However, the interpretation of these findings is uncertain. Making an analogy to perceptual consciousness research, I argue that much of the unconsciousness of high-level cognition is plausibly due to internal inattentional blindness: missing an otherwise consciously-accessible internal event because your attention was elsewhere. In other words, rather than being structurally unconscious, many higher mental processes might instead be "preconscious", and would become conscious if a person attended to them. I synthesize existing indirect evidence for this claim, argue that it is a foundational and largely untested assumption in many applied interventions (such as therapy and mindfulness practices), and suggest that, with careful experimentation, it could form the basis for a long-sought-after science of introspection training.


Just as people can miss perceptual events due to external inattention, so may they be blind to internal events – like those constituting high-level mental processes – due to internal inattention. The existence of internal inattentional blindness, and the possibility of overcoming it through training, are widely assumed in successful applied psychological practices and widely reported by practitioners; yet these possibilities have rarely been explored experimentally, or taken seriously by basic theorists. Rigorously demonstrating the existence of IIB could open a new chapter both in the development of psychological interventions, and in our understanding of the scope of conscious awareness.

Attention Therapists: Some very relevant information here.