Friday, 1 January 2010

What people don't see

Today's blog is thanks to Sarah Braithwaite, who gave me a fantastic book for Christmas: "Animals in translation" by Temple Grandin. If you haven't come across it, I can highly recommend it - its a seriously worthwhile and totally absorbing read.

One of the chapters that particularly interested Sarah and I comes early in the book, and describes the differences between what animals perceive through eyesight and what people do. The author is autistic and says that "animals and autistic people see a whole register of the visual world normal people can't or don't".

She describes a study that was carried out with commercial airline pilots, using a flight simulator. The researchers asked them to perform routine landings, and on some of the approaches there appeared to be another plane parked on the runway. It was clearly "visible" but a quarter of the pilots landed right on top of the supposed plane and never saw it.

Here's her conclusion, one which speaks volumes:

"If you're a professional [pilot], expecting to see what a professional normally would see, there's a 25% chance you'll miss a huge commercial aircraft parked crossways blocking the landing strip in a flight simulator.

That's because normal people's perceptual systems are built to see what they're used to seeing... They have inattentional blindness".

Its something we've experienced time and time again in relation to our barefoot horses :-)


cptrayes said...

I loved the bit in Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, written from an autistic boy's point of view - he saw a herd of black and white cows and he said that if someone asked him what they looked like, he would have to say "which one"? If horses have that level of perception (which from Jazz I think they actually do) the world must be a very confusing place at times.

Happy New Year!


Nic Barker said...

Another quote from the same book :-)

"I had enough problems trying to figure out things like why a really small dog [dachshund] isn't a cat. That was a big crisis in my life. ...Finally I realised the dachshund had the same kind of nose my golden retriever did, and I got it. Dogs have dog noses. "

Happy New Year to you and yours too :-)

Jassy said...

Nic, I wanted to say thanks for writing a great book. I bought two copies, one for me and the other for my friend who also keeps her horses barefoot. Although we live here in South Africa, a lot of the information is so relevant, and I found the section on supplements particularly interesting and useful.

It really does beg for a sequel though, and I hope you will write one! I would be particularly interested in more case studies - the feed and exercise programmes for your "patients" were very interesting and inspiring. And more before and after photos... they were great.

Regarding your latest post, I agree. My younger TB, Jack, stood on a sharp stone at full gallop a few days back in his paddock (we think - he was hurtling round like a lunatic) - he was slightly short on his left front afterwards, and a couple of days later went hopping lame. Out came the vet, poulticed the foot, and remarked that his feet are very short and his frogs are very low!

Compared to *what?* All the overly-long, contracted hooves of the shod horses at the yard? It is funny how she perceived his foot, compared to how I perceive all the other shod feet I see now.

In any case, she left him with a course of bute and said she'd be back to check on him in two days and would open up the foot if necessary.

Well, the next morning he was 99% sound! I never gave him the bute she'd left for him. He spent one more day stabled, and today is out as usual, wearing a hoof boot to protect his sole for a few more days so the bruise can finish healing. I was so impressed by how fast and well his bare hoof was able to recover from its injury, and I think the yard owner and the vet were, too.

Nic Barker said...

Jassy, thanks for your lovely comments, and I hope there will be a sequel - it was great fun writing it!

Great to hear that your horses are doing so well - keep up the good work ;-)

cptrayes said...

Nic when I sold neural networks for part of my living, to illustrate the fact that they cannot be expected do the impossible, I used to pose the question "tell me the difference, without reference to the sounds they make, between a dog and a cat" No-one ever could, and I could not either. It has taken a person with autism to do it for me. Fantastic :-)

perils said...

Hi Nic

Is the author of the book an American? And is she the lady who advises farmers and abattoirs as how best to build their slaughter houses to make them less stressful for the cattle as she can think like a cow and knows how they 'see' the world??! You are so right on the fact that we see only what we want or expect to see, perhaps thats where the saying 'there's none so blind etc....'!!
P.S did you get my email re 5th?? Someone has said to me today that it's gonna snow on Tuesday anyway!!!

Nic Barker said...

Caroline, I thought you'd enjoy that :-) Whole book is full of bits like that!

Penny, yes, she is that lady :-) Have emailed you too!

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