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Still Waters

What we can’t see can help us find things

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Still Waters

Anyone who’s ever tried to find something in a hurry knows how helpful it is to think about the lost item’s color, size and shape. But surprisingly, traits of an object that you can’t see also come into play during a search, Johns Hopkins University researchers found.

When participants were asked to spot everyday objects in clutter, they found them about 20 percent faster if they could factor in latent physical traits like hardness or softness – even though people had no idea that they were considering those factors.

“What makes the finding particularly striking from a vision science standpoint is that simply knowing the latent physical properties of objects is enough to help guide your attention to them,” said senior author Jason Fischer, a cognitive neuroscientist in the university’s department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “It’s surprising because nearly all prior research in this area has focused on a host of visual properties that can facilitate search, but we find that what you know about objects can be as important as what you actually see.”


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Wonder if this could help with not being able to find something right in front of you. What the wife calls having a "man look".

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