Six ways of failing to see (and why the differences matter)

Makaela Nartker, Chaz Firestone, Howard Egeth, Ian Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sometimes we look but fail to see: our car keys on a cluttered desk, a repeated word in a carefully proofread email, or a motorcycle at an intersection. Wolfe and colleagues present a unifying, mechanistic framework for understanding these “Looked But Failed to See” errors, explaining how such misses arise from natural constraints on human visual processing. Here, we offer a conceptual taxonomy of six distinct ways we might be said to fail to see, and explore: how these relate to processes in Wolfe et al.’s model; how they can be distinguished experimentally; and, why the differences matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • attention to features/objects
  • inattentional blindness
  • object recognition
  • perception
  • visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology


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