Hide-and-seek in plain sight

We went to the park Sunday. Thing 1 and Thing 2 challenged Sweetie to a game of hide-and-seek, and Thing 2 (the 5-year-old) found the perfect hiding place:

The swings.

While Sweetie was looking behind trees and inside the climbing place, Thing 2 was swinging with the other kids, keeping an eye on her. Soon as she spotted him, he jumped down and ran to base.

I asked him later, “Where you trying to hide you were on the swings? You weren’t just swinging?”

“No,” he said. “I just knew she’d never find me if I was up in the air.”

What’s funny is that this is actually a thing. It’s called “selective attention.” The idea is that sometimes you’re so busy searching for something that you miss the thing that’s right in front of your face.

Here’s what I mean. Watch the video (it’s short) and count how many times the players in white pass the basketball to one another:


(It probably works better if you don’t see it cold; they showed us this at a work retreat a few months ago, and nearly everyone in the room, um, miscounted.)

I don’t think they’re teaching this in preschool. Thing 2 somehow figured it out by himself, and, as a parent, that scares me, because he’ll be a teenager in 8 years, and if he’s this clever at age 5, then I’m doomed, I tell you, doomed!

20 thoughts on “Hide-and-seek in plain sight

  1. I love the photo Todd!

    I think you’ll figure out by then. What you won’t be prepared for is what technology advancements occur between now and then and how you kids interact with them.

    I look back now and see how the cell phone crept into our lives and now our kids practically have it attached to their bodies.

    They seem to be outgrowing Facebook. They came to their own conclusions how time consuming it was getting to be, not allowing for things they really enjoy doing.

    I just wonder what will be the next thing that affects parenting.

    1. Thanks, flyinggma. That’s actually a picture of Thing 2 taken last summer. I would have taken a picture of him on Sunday, but, you know, I couldn’t actually see him because he was hiding.

  2. I need to show my husband this video. He routinely fails to see the can of coffee AND the filters in the pantry, despite the fact that they’re sitting on the shelf at eye level, and in the front, too.

  3. I saw a different video of the same exact setup just a few months back. I completely missed the big distraction! Now today I knew what had to be coming and couldn’t even look at the ball.
    Speaking of brain functions, I recommend that movie Limitless where Bradley Cooper gets use of 100% of his brain. That would be wild.

      1. I can see that happening – I watched it once without counting and easily noticed the gorilla. Then I counted and got the answer right – I saw the gorilla, but that’s because I was waiting for it, I’m sure. Maybe I’ll show it to my 11 year old.

  4. That is really smart of Thing 2. In office-speak, that’s real “outside the box” type thinking.
    Yeah, I’d starting hiding your car keys when he turns 10.

  5. I once dated a guy who was really into Dungeons and Dragons. (Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with gorillas). Anyway, this is what I learned from a gamer: apparently people don’t look up when they’re looking for someone. So, swing really high.

    And I counted 16 passes. Not sure what this says about me, other than I invent things.

    1. You laugh, but someday, the robot overlords and the zombies will team up and come after us, and the only people who’ll know how to defend and protect themselves will be the guys who played Resident Evil and D & D.

  6. One of our family games when we were kids was playing “Hide the Thimble.” You had to hide it in plain sight…it was fun to see how long it would take to find it!

    My whole family suffers from “selective attention”…when the dog needs to go out, everyone ignores him (except me), but when I tell them “Dinner’s ready!” they all come running! Funny how that works…


  7. I remember seeing this (and other examples) on Dateline maybe 8 or 10 years ago. I saw the gorilla and lost count of the passes. But I’ve got the ADHD brain, so am easily distracted by novelty and visuals,as are children. Your son is young, he is clever, but now you know to keep a watch on him…however, your selective attention – also called attentional blindness- will probably make it impossible to notice what he’s really up to. SO it’s really just yourself you should prolly be worried about. 😦

    There is also ‘attentional deafness’, and is most blatantly described by new yorkers living near L-trains; when the trains break down or go off line with schedule changes, the people living next to them miss all the noise, and start calling the police to report problems and disturbances. Turns out, it’s not what they hear, but what they have stopped hearing.

    Similarly, I live under a very busy flight-highway to Philadelphia airport. It usually disturbs me, but often, you just don’t hear it. Untill 9-11. The silence in the sky was horrifying.It was like the whole world had died…I was having panic attacks at every sound. And when they started back flying, I was even more distressed- man, those planes are Loud! But your ears filter familiar sounds out; heaters, fridges, ceiling fans. Yes, selective attention. Nice post.

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