Frank Lloyd Wrong

Tucson, Arizona (10/4/1971)

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A Science Experiment
I would like to do this somewhat simple science experiment.

Present people with blank cards on an assembly line, and ask them to select the cards that are slightly misshapen in some specific way. About 1 in 50 cards will be misshapen. It will be some obvious thing, like a corner is cut off. Here's the rub... one in ten cards will be a different color. It will be just-noticably different. That's it...

You see that just noticeable difference? The color difference is not what the subject is scanning for. The subject is scanning for say... a punch hole in the middle of the card like this:

And again, only about 1 in 50 cards will have the hole punched in it. The subject will control the rate at which the cards appear. I think this can even be done on computer. So in the experiment there will be basically two factors: how often the "defect" occurs, and how often a different, but non-defective card appears. I want to see what combination of rates, changes the attention of the subject. That's it. I am betting that this or something similar has been done a long, long time ago. My hunch is that if one is looking for a very rare defect (a 1 in 50 defect) and it is in the midst of a common non-defect difference (the slight variation in color of ~ 1 in 10 cards), that the subject will zero in on the non-defect difference, and spend more time and attention on the non-defect difference than the "normal" cards.

Come to think of it, I think it would be better if the non-defective but "different" cards are different because of their shape rather than their color.

I think you can guess what this experiment would "prove."

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Your images didn't show up in the post. But yeah, I think what you're talking about is a variant of Bruner's experiment in which people, when confronted with an anomaly in a deck of cards, cognitively misclassify it to fit their expectations. The article is at and the YouTube is at The whole field of cognitive psychology is built on this insight (that people "see" what they're conditioned to notice).

Bruner is an interesting dude whose stuff is actually fairly easy to read. Unfortunately it's 65 years later and virtually none of what happens in schools reflects this pretty basic intuition. It's not brain science... except it IS brain science.

I think I hit the wrong reply.

I think I will make an animated gif that gives a clue about what I am trying to do...

They aren't images, they're scalable vector graphics and they worked in the preview window, so I am a little disappointed... What I want to investigate with these "cards" is if there is a peak rarity at which the non-defect different cards draw a lot of attention.

Basically, I was thinking about the problem of racist police. There are very few police officers who will admit, even to themselves, that they are racist. But still, I think there is something about the human mind (in particular, the "hunting" mind) in scan mode that will direct police to pay more attention to insignificant details. In essence, they patrol around, thinking, "white guy... white guy... white guy... white guy..." for long periods of time, and just as a consequence of someone not being white, it will gain their attention, because it is a variation in the pattern of "white guys doing nothing." So, since they pair "white guy doin' nothing" so often, they will naturally pair "up to somethin'" with "not white guy."

They are just anomaly hunting. And it seems like anomalies come all in a group to that mentality. It's why idiots think that ISIS is filled with black, gay, Muslim, welfare, liberals... They just group up all the anomalies even if they are contradictory.

So I am proposing an "assembly line" of "cards" to be observed by the subject. The subject must press the big red button when a "reject" card appears. Let's say the reject card has a hole in it. That's it. And these reject cards are rare. They are 1 in 50 of all cards. But the "different" cards are more frequent... about 1 in 10. The subject will see these "cards" one at a time like they are coming down an assembly line. When they see a "REJECT" card (with a hole in it), they will press the big, red button. Otherwise, they... I don't know... press the space bar. So they are controlling the rate at which the cards are coming.

W W W W W W B W W W W W W B W W W W W W ...

W W W B W W W W W W W ! W W W B W B W W ...

W W W W W B W W W W W W W W W W W W B B ...

The only card in this series that the subject would hit the big red button on is the ! card. That's the reject card. In essence, I am trying to see what the ratio of "white" to "black" cards is that causes the subject to do two things: falsely press the big, red button on a "black" non-reject card, and accidentally gloss over a "white" reject card.

The difference between the "white" and "black" cards should be very subtle. And only one in fifty cards is a reject. But I would vary all those factors to try to generate the most errors.

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