This is why you can never find your keys

It’s Science Friday! I might make this a thing.

A little while ago, I shared a video with you about observation and how, if you focus exclusively on one thing, you miss a whole bunch of other stuff. This is true of concentration and attention in business and life… 

Cartoon of a man searching for lost keys

Use this technique and never lose your keys again…

But it’s also literally true. My mate Andy, who volunteers for West Mercia Search & Rescue, gave a pretty good summary of why they train their volunteers the way they do:

“This is a great example of something we teach in Search & Rescue training. There are two physical problems with your brain and eyes and how they take in information; Saccadic Masking and Chronostasis.

“Fascinating stuff, the Saccadic Masking effect means that as your eyes dart around a scene to take in information you are completely blind for most of the time, and just take snapshots when your eyes are stationary. Your brain just fills in the gaps with what it “expects” to be there, rather than what is actually there.

“And Chronostasis is the effect whereby when your eyes first settle on an object or part of a scene, there’s a delay for your brain to kick in and process it. This is easiest demonstrated by looking at a clock; the first second you look at it will seem fractionally longer than following seconds. In real world terms that means that if you dart your eyes around a scene and take too little time to absorb stuff, your brain will make even MORE up for you.

“I use this video as part of the basic search training to show the saccadic masking effect:

“It takes several sessions for new Searchers to “get” why we search the way we do, but it’s so we don’t miss the velociraptors.”

Fascinating stuff indeed. This is why, if you ever get pinched for a crime and the police have eye-witnesses, you want to get a lawyer who really understands just how horrifyingly unreliable eye-witnesses are, particularly in stressful situations…

It also explains why you can never find your keys, even when they’re right in front of you.

WMSAR is one of my favourite charities, by the way. The Air Ambulance, Mountain Rescue, and Coastguard get all the sexy news coverage because helicopters, mountains, and boats… but WMSAR – inland search and rescue – is working tirelessly and quietly in the background to find your grandpa when his Alzheimer’s takes him on an adventure he can’t control.

WMSAR is looking for your teenage daughter when it all gets too much for her and she disappears into the wilderness.

And they’re bringing closure to people who’ve lost someone, and don’t know what ever happened.

If you’re thinking about a charity to support in 2017, give a thought to these guys. They rock:



Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.

PS Armed with this information, you should never lose your keys again. You’re welcome.


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