Detecting changes between two strangers: Insight from a classic change blindness paradigm

Alexandra R. Marquis, Nicole A. Sugden, Margaret C. Moulson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study aims to investigate what factors influence whether adults detect a change between social partners in a brief interaction. In two experiments, we examined whether locale diversity, a stranger’s marginalized minority status (e.g., minority race, minority religious affiliation), and race congruence (e.g., own or other race) influenced the likelihood of being differentiated. Using a change blindness paradigm, an experimenter approached pedestrians asking for directions, then surreptitiously changed places with a confederate. After the switch, we measured whether pedestrians noticed if the person had changed. In Experiment 1, noticing rates were significantly lower for confederates belonging to a minority race compared to White confederates, but only in the more homogenous location and not in the highly diverse location. In Experiment 2, pedestrians were least likely to detect a change when confederates belonged to a religious minority and a racial minority. We discuss the important implications for prejudicial behaviour and eyewitness identification, as well as the utility of performing psychological research outside of the lab.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1035-1049
Number of pages15
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • change blindness
  • change detection
  • discrimination
  • face perception
  • ingroup advantage
  • other-race effect
  • person perception
  • visible minority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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