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The University of Alabama

UA’s Philosophy Series Continues with Talk on Inattentional Blindness

Dr. Ned Block

Dr. Ned Block

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Ned Block, a leading philosopher of mind, will deliver the next lecture in the 2013-2014 Philosophy Today Series.

His lecture, “Do We See Less Than We Think We See?” will be held Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in room 205 of Smith Hall on The University of Alabama campus.

Block is the Silver Professor of Philosophy, Psychology and Neural Science at New York University. He has published extensively in philosophy of mind, as well as foundations of neuroscience and cognitive science. He is writing a book about attention. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received numerous distinctions in philosophy, including delivering the 2011-12 John Locke Lectures at Oxford.

In his lecture at UA, Block will discuss inattentional blindness, or selective attention, which is the failure to notice something in one’s visual field while performing attention-demanding tasks. This phenomenon has been demonstrated by the “invisible gorilla test,” where participants are asked to watch a video of people in different colored shirts passing a basketball. While watching, participants are asked to count the number of passes made by people in a certain color shirt. During the video, a gorilla walks directly through the action, but it has been found that at least half of the people watching the video don’t notice the gorilla. Block will discuss the meaning and significance of the phenomenon demonstrated in this test and other experiments from a philosophical perspective.

While on campus, Block will also give a departmental talk, “Seeing-As in the Light of Vision Science,” Nov. 13 at 4 p.m. in room 103 of ten Hoor Hall. He will also meet with students and faculty while on campus.

Lectures in the Philosophy Today series are geared toward a general audience and are of interest to those in any profession or academic discipline. Sponsored by UA’s College of Arts and Sciences’ department of philosophy, a grant from Louis W. Perry and other alumni, and friends of the department, the presentations are free and open to the public.

UA’s department of philosophy is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Kelli Wright, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539,
  • SOURCE: Dr. Torin Alter, professor of philosophy, 205/348-1908,