Western Washington UniversityCommunications and Marketing
DATE: October 12, 2012 10:49:58 AM PDT
WWU Professor to Discuss Cell Phone Use and ‘Inattentional Blindness’ Oct. 24

Contact:  Professor Ira Hyman, WWU Department of Psychology, (360) 650-3519; Ira.Hyman@wwu.edu

BELLINGHAM – Ira Hyman, professor of Psychology at Western Washington University, will give a lecture titled “Failing to See Unicycling Clowns and Money on a Tree: Cell Phones Cause Inattentional Blindness” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24 in the Bellingham City Council Chambers, 210 Lottie St., in Bellingham.

The free, public talk, an installment of the WWU College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Lecture Series, is co-sponsored by the City of Bellingham.

In his research, Hyman has documented real-world examples of people who were so distracted by their cell phones that they failed to see the bizarre occurrence of a unicycling clown passing them as they walked.

Here are some other examples:

  • A woman falls down an open manhole while talking on her cell phone.
  • A train operator misses the signals and causes an accident while texting.
  • Pilots fail to notice signals from their plane for an hour and a half while playing with their computers.
  • People walking and talking on cell phones miss seeing miss seeing dollar bills hanging on a tree beside their pathway.

These are all examples of inattentional blindness – times when people are focused on one activity and fail to notice something that may pass directly in front of them. When people become oblivious to the world, they make potentially disastrous mistakes.

Hyman received his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and his doctorate in cognitive and developmental psychology from Emory University. His research includes human memory and his recent work has focused on memory for trauma, false childhood memories, memory for phobia onset, autobiographical memory, and remembering in differing social contexts. He teaches courses in human cognition, research design, and statistics.

Audience questions will be welcomed.  The lecture will be recorded and shown on Bellingham TV Channel 10.

For more information on this lecture, please contact Katrina Schaeffer, WWU College of Humanities & Social Sciences, (360) 650-3763, or katrina.schaeffer@wwu.edu

Would talking on your cell phone cause you to have missed this clown? Ira Hyman thinks so. Photo by Matthew Anderson | WWU

A Canadian film crew shooting for the Canadian Broadcasting Company films Western Washington University professor Ira Hyman and unicyclist Joe Myers, who works in WWU Facilities Management, on campus Jan. 22, 2010. The crew was on campus to re-stage Hyman's research on cell phone use and to film an interview with Hyman for the documentary, which likely will air sometime in the fall on the Discovery Channel. Photo by Jon Bergman | University Communications intern

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