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(Some Possible Reasons) Why Accidents Happen

In the late 1800s when the first cars started to appear on the roads, a person with a red flag had to walk in front of the car to make sure the car did not cause an accident by accidentally running people over. Today, with the improvement of production methods and the necessity of transport, accidents are an everyday occurrence. They are so common that we rarely ever notice it on radio or passing one by. That is, only until you are involved in an accident that you start to pay attention.

But why do they happen in the first place? There are probably as many reasons as there are accidents worldwide annually. However, according to most (95%) can be attributed to driver error. Again, there are many reasons why drivers make these errors, but given the nature of this blog, I would like to focus on the psychological reasons that I can think of why accidents happen. What might surprise you is that two explanations are from tricks used by magicians. Unsurprisingly, it involves your attention (or lack thereof). 

what your eyes see and what you perceive is two different things

Firstly, we have all searched for something that we cannot find. That is, until we realised that it has been right in front of us. You look but you don’t see. This is known as inattentional blindness. A famous experiment conducted by Daniel Simons involved students needing to count the number of times a basket ball was bounced in a given time. While this was happening, a man/woman in a gorilla suit walked past. Only 50% of the students saw the gorilla. So what your eyes see and what you perceive is two different things. Let’s say you want to make a right turn over the lane of oncoming traffic. This involves looking both ways. Because of the sun’s glare bouncing off the many cars and buildings adjacent to the road, there is a lack of contrast between cars moving and those standing still (see the contrast heading in one of my previous articles). All of a sudden when you cross the lane of oncoming traffic you connect one of those glaring cars you ‘just didn’t see’. Worse, you saw the car but it didn’t enter your conscious mind. 

Secondly, in a recent article in Scientific American, some of the psychology of card tricks was explored. In it, the phenomenon of misdirection is explained. Misdirection involves redirecting a person’s attention away from something to pay attention to something else. For example, while driving on a road your attention might be suddenly directed to a commotion on the side of the road. And the rest is history…

Some your attention gets transferred to the unconscious mind, but ever so often you just don’t pay attention.


Marketing Implications

People often find it hard to find things they are looking for… while its right in front of them. This is why it is important to make your products stand out from competitive products (e.g. through contrast). Also notice any other distractions that might make your company’s advertising less noticeable. For example, the end caps (promotions, often with stands or free tastings that are placed at the end of aisles in retail stores) will probably make your product less obvious and hence harder to spot as they attract more immediate attention.

The principle here is to make your product as prominent as possible that will make it easier for your products to attract attention.

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Werner van Zyl
Phone: +27 84 810 22 74
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