Observational Recall

To train a ninja assassin to observe the enemy and to obtain as much useful and
specific information as possible, the ancient masters devised a "game of stones." Use
a small wooden box or shallow wicker tray and place in it stones, jewelry,
silverware, keys, coins and small household items so that the bottom is completely
covered. Now expose to a partner the uncovered container in front of your. Now
have him look at the items as long as desired and even touch and feel them. After he
sufficiently examines them, cover the container and have him relate what was see.
Check for accuracy and take time in referring to the ones he missed. Now cover the
box and have him reiterate once again everything that he saw. This time also ask him
to relate details about the container! This teaches him not to be so absorbed in detail
that the overall picture is obscured. Repeat the game until observation improves to
A college professor demonstrated to his freshman classroom the lack of
observational awareness in most people by staging a sham murder. As he began his
class, a thin, small busted, white woman (5'11") in a T-shirt and jeans, wearing a
baseball cap over short hair burst into the room and shouted, "This is a joke." She
carried a bow and quiver, but shot the professor with a blank pistol one time. She
dropped the bow and quiver, and quickly left the room as the professor slumped to
the floor. Through the classroom pandemonium, the professor arose from the floor
seconds later, and visibly removed a mock arrow from a pretended wound in the
side. After calming the class, he instructed them to write down the answers to the
following questions:
1) What did the assailant say?
2) What was the assailant wearing?
3) Describe the assailant -- male or female, black or white, short hair or long, fat or
thin, tall or short, etc.
4) What action did the assailant take?
Astonishingly, there was very little, accurate agreement among the classroom
students. Eyewitnesses to crimes are often just as unreliable.