Paying Attention

There’s a concept in the human factors engineering community called “attentional tunnelling” that happens when you invest too much trust in an information channel, and stop paying attention to the cues in your surroundings – ie your situational awareness breaks down. Here’s a beautiful example from Associated Press of what happens when the channel is normally reliable, but you don’t spot your own mistake in using it:

“ROME – OFFICIALS say a Swedish couple looking for the pristine waters of the popular island of Capri ended some 660 kilometers away in the northern industrial town of Carpi after misspelling the destination on their car’s GPS. Angelo Giovannini, a spokesman for the Carpi town hall, near Modena, said Tuesday the couple drove into the main square last week and asked the local tourist office how to reach Capri’s famed Blue Grotto sea cave. Giovannini said ‘we thought they might mean a restaurant. Capri is an island, they did not even wonder why they didn’t cross any bridge or take any boat.’ He said the couple, who were not identified, arrived from Venice and later set off to their planned destination at the other end of the Italian peninsula.—AP”

Thanks to the Straits Times iPhone application for this gem!

By the way, Carpi doesn’t look half bad. I think I would have stayed, on principle (“No darling, I MEANT for us to come here, it’s so much more homely than that chintzy little island!”wink


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