Cathy N. Davidson wrote the piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Five or six years ago, I attended a lecture on the science of attention. A philosopher who conducts research over in the medical school was talking about attention blindness, the basic feature of the human brain that, when we concentrate intensely on one task, causes us to miss just about everything else. Because we can’t see what we can’t see, our lecturer was determined to catch us in the act. He had us watch a video of six people tossing basketballs back and forth, three in white shirts and three in black, and our task was to keep track only of the tosses among the people in white. I hadn’t seen the video back then, although it’s now a classic, featured on punk-style TV shows or YouTube versions enacted at frat houses under less than lucid conditions. The tape rolled, and everyone began counting.