A Form of Attention Tunnelling

handgun in focusFrank is second in line at the supermarket, waiting to buy his groceries. Suddenly, the man in front of Frank smashes a glass bottle against the counter and thrusts the sharp, jagged edges against the throat of a terrified check-out operator. The man snatches a handful of cash from the open till and runs from the store. Later Frank can give a detailed description of the bottle, its colour, its label: “Roses Sweetened Lime Juice”, and its picture of two limes surrounded by green leaves. But Frank cannot tell investigators any details about the man, what he looked like, or even what he was wearing. Is something wrong with Frank? What happened to Frank’s memory for the incident?

Frank is suffering from weapon focus, a form of attention tunnelling, where all of his attention was focused on the weapon (the broken bottle) rather than the person wielding the weapon. Due to this focus, little-to-no information about the attacker was encoded even though they were seen. Research also indicates that fewer details are remembered in violent events, allowing for the “gist” of events to be recalled, however lacking detail.

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