As if by Magic: An Abrupt Change in Motion Direction Induces Change Blindness

Richard Yao, Katherine Wood, Daniel J. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Magicians claim that an abrupt change in the direction of movement can attract attention, allowing them to hide their method for a trick in plain sight. In three experiments involving 43 total subjects, we tested this claim by examining whether a sudden directional change can induce change blindness. Subjects were asked to detect an instantaneous orientation change of a single item in an array of Gabor patches; this change occurred as the entire array moved across the display. Subjects consistently spotted the change if it occurred while the array moved along a straight path but missed it when it occurred as the array changed direction. This method of inducing change blindness leaves the object in full view during the change; requires no additional distractions, visual occlusion, or global transients; and worked in every subject tested here. This phenomenon joins a body of magic-inspired work that yields insights into perception and attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-443
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • attention
  • change blindness
  • failures of awareness
  • motion perception
  • open data
  • open materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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