Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Intentional Blindness

Last Friday I wrote about inattentional blindness. Today it suddenly hit me that there is also such a thing as intentional blindness. When I walk from my Thai neighborhood I walk down a street that is frequented by beggars. I am now sure that I will myself not to see them. It's a no win situation, because they are regulars on that street and as such I have to walk past them almost every day. If I give something, I think, I am going to find it harder to pass them next time (which is every single day).

I have become so experienced at it that it is a task I perform subliminally i.e. without conscieous thought. Except today. It was late in the afternoon before I walked out of my apartment just to get out. I had been on the computer the entire day. I was a little frustrated with work. I marched off down the broken sidewalk, and they were there already, finding the deepening shadows to lurk in. It wasn't until I walked past the second one with my practiced aversion, that I suddenly realized what I was doing. I had been thinking lately about inattentional blindness so I guess I was letting my mind out of it's boundaries a bit. But it only took a moment to realize that whast I had been doing wasn't inattentional. Far from it, I was paying close attention, I, intentionally, never stole the sightest glance and I chose a path that took me somewhat away from them as I passed. And I never, ever uttered a sound.
There is such a thing as intentioanal blindness. That may be one to watch as well. I suspect it is utterly human, but clearly on the debit side.

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