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The individual checking his email pictured above is someone who didn’t see the money tree. He’s a graduate student that was part of a research study cited in the Original Research Article, Failure to see money on a tree: inattentional blindness for objects that guided behavior by Ira E. Hyman Jr., Benjamin A. Sarb and Breanne M. Wise-Swanson.

The term Inattentional Blindness , the focus of the study, is a psychological lack of attention not associated with any vision defects or deficits.

The researchers say that they documented a new form of Inattentional Blindness in which people fail to become aware of obstacles that had guided their behavior. In one of the two studies cited, they found

Cell phone talkers and texters were less likely to show awareness of money on a tree over the pathway they were traversing. Nonetheless, they managed to avoid walking into the money tree. Perceptual information may be processed in two distinct pathways – one guiding behavior and the other leading to awareness. We observed that people can appropriately use information to guide behavior without awareness.

Of the 396 people they observed, only 12 people (3%) walked into the tree branches. The remaining 97% were able to register the tree enough to avoid it, but not being aware enough to take the money. In fact, they did not observe any individual who walked into the tree stopping to take the money.

In other words, Inattentional Blindness occurs when paying attention to one thing causes an individual to miss what others may see as obvious.

Maybe like an employee not contributing to a 401(k) plan that has an employer match?

Just asking.