Pirate stealth or inattentional blindness? the effects of target relevance and sustained attention on security monitoring for experienced and naïve operators

Erika Näsholm, Sarah Rohlfing, James D. Sauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Downloads (Pure)


Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) operators are responsible for maintaining security in various applied settings. However, research has largely ignored human factors that may contribute to CCTV operator error. One important source of error is inattentional blindness – the failure to detect unexpected but clearly visible stimuli when attending to a scene. We compared inattentional blindness rates for experienced (84 infantry personnel) and naïve (87 civilians) operators in a CCTV monitoring task. The task-relevance of the unexpected stimulus and the length of the monitoring period were manipulated between participants. Inattentional blindness rates were measured using typical post-event questionnaires, and participants' real-time descriptions of the monitored event. Based on the post-event measure, 66% of the participants failed to detect salient, ongoing stimuli appearing in the spatial field of their attentional focus. The unexpected task-irrelevant stimulus was significantly more likely to go undetected (79%) than the unexpected task-relevant stimulus (55%). Prior task experience did not inoculate operators against inattentional blindness effects. Participants' real-time descriptions revealed similar patterns, ruling out inattentional amnesia accounts.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere86157
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2014

Cite this