One afternoon recently, in Amsterdam with my partner Jerry Nagel for his dissertation defence on Worldview and his doctorate graduation from Tilburg University, we visited an outdoor café to enjoy the day and the atmosphere. Across the street was a square with buskers and a lot of pedestrian traffic. Noticeable was this group of women, out on some afternoon excursion, clearly together identified by their red wigs. Intrigued, I snapped a couple of pictures of them.
When I downloaded the pictures to my computer I was stunned to see that even more prevalent than the red wigs, was the red Burger King sign behind the crowd – something I wasn’t aware of as I took the photos. To my dismay, the pictures looked like an unintended advertisement (thank goodness for photo editing).
There is a phenomenon known as inattentional blindness. Inattentional blindness happens regularly. It happens when something has our attention to such a degree we do not even see something else that may be equally prominent, and sometimes more, in the same space – like this now famous experiment with the basketball players. Take a peek, if you haven’t seen it yet.
Inattentional blindness is also an influence on and a result of your worldview. The way you see the world impacts what you do see, as was described in this post on Worldview Practice and Action – Taking Whole. Some things get through your lenses, other things are filtered out – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Have you ever found yourself in an argument with someone because they claim they saw or experienced something different than you did? Have you found yourself in a position of having to recant your position because “evidence” (pictures, documents, other) shows you remembered inaccurately? Or maybe you were the one who remembered more accurately and got to gloat? On that one occasion anyway.
These pictures of the women in red wigs and the Burger King sign are a good reminder that when you expand your lens, even slightly, you may see more than you did on first glance. Or, if you refocus your attention you may see more of the picture. Or, if you really take a look around with fresh eyes you may see things you routinely pass by without ever giving thought or attention to.
For the most part, inattentional blindness is not a bad thing. It is habitual. It helps you navigate the world around you. It is when someone or something challenges you or your worldview that it is helpful to remember there may be more to the picture. Rather than taking up a defensive or persuasive position, it becomes a good time to invite Worldview Intelligence practices like curiosity, to listen to another person, to hear how they see the world and be willing to expand how you see the world to include more of a picture, to be more expansive and generous, rather than reductive – Worldview Intelligence practices that work equally well at work and at home. It doesn’t mean you have to change your own beliefs, values or worldview but when you can accept or acknowledge there may be other ways of seeing or experiencing the same situation, you create the space and opportunity to meet another human being in the fullness of your common humanity. When you meet in this space, it is possible to transform differences into progress.