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We’ve all heard of spouses who may hear the sports score but not the call to do dishes or teenagers who hear their cellphones ringing at low volumes but not their parent talking to them in the same room. We all know you can tune out unwanted noise, but do individuals also practice selective vision? Maybe so.
In the case of website design and advertising, the idea that your eyes naturally gravitate toward certain images is studied extensively. The Nielson Norman Company research group conducted a study on tunnel vision and selective attention. When they refer to tunnel vision, they are utilizing the slang definition, focusing attention on a narrow viewpoint or perspective, as opposed to the medical definition of someone who can see directly in front of them but cannot view objects in their periphery.
The Nielson Norman Company study tested users to determine what information was gathered from the same website when displayed two different ways. Users learned the intended message about company events when the webpage used bright display colors. “Each event in the company’s history was shown in a lightbox-style pop-up. Although this was perhaps an overly aggressive design choice, it certainly worked. Users easily navigated the timeline by clicking the various controls.”
However, readers viewed the most important text on a webpage last when it was displayed in black letters above the photo as opposed to below the article. Why? The headline was underneath the picture. Users had tunnel vision to read what was underneath the headline. They didn’t think that there could be a significant piece of information hovering above the picture.
If you think you don’t have selective vision, think about your favorite website. Do you start reading at a spot that’s the most visually appealing to you or do you start from one corner and view every item on the page?
Then there’s how someone selectively views items in real life. Ask yourself when you have a memory: do you visualize an event in the same way as a friend who attended the same event? A great example of selective view of a special place in one’s life was described in a blog onThe Leadership Program’s site. The author overheard fellow commuters on the subway talking about the homeless people who lived in Union Square.
He was shocked because he remembered it as “a welcome oasis in a very urban neighborhood with, among other interesting discoveries there, big shade trees, benches and steps to sit on, lots of people milling about, occasional political rallies, a great four-day-a-week farmer’s market featuring New York City rooftop honey and lots of other goodies, and in winter, a holiday market offering unique gifts.”
Then the author remembered a contest that took place a few years prior for building creative temporary shelters. He still didn’t have any recollection of homeless individuals living there.
We all remember events based on visuals we find appealing or unappealing. But if you happen to remember the most positive aspects of a place or event, is it really such a bad thing?