This is a world full of distractions. You send texts when sitting on the toilet. You check Facebook when watching TV. And maybe you are now reading this article because you got distracted.
Distractions are so common, but a new study published recently in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance suggests that distractions can be more dangerous than you can imagine as they may alter your perception of reality.
About the study
In the study, 26 participants were asked to focus on a specific one of four different-colored squares on a computer screen. A bright image would randomly pop up on the screen, interrupting the participants. The participants were then asked to tell the colors of the squares they were asked to focus on.
It turned out that many participants confused the colors of the right squares with the colors of the distractors or chose a color close to the right color but farther away from the distraction color.
Even more striking, the distracted participants were just as confident about their answers as those who were not distracted.
What the study means
The results suggest that distractions may distort reality and make you believe you saw something you didn't see. Besides, you might not realize that your perception has been changed.
"It raises an interesting consequence for memory — could it be that, if distraction happens with the right timing, you might adopt elements from the distraction into the thing you think you remember? Could it mean that some of our memory errors might be because we perceived something wrong in the first place?" said the study's lead author, Jiageng Chen.
The researchers are not yet clear about the answer, but it is true that our brains are not always totally honest with us. Future studies are still needed to find out the secrets of our brains and memories.