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Attention to detail

  1. Jul 20, 2010 #1
    I've seen the Mexican flag more times than I can count, but until I played Trivial Pursuit with my friends, I couldn't tell you what it looked like, other than the colors.

    There was a question that I was certain my friend wouldn't guess. It was basically what Latin flag has an eagle with a snake in its mouth on it. I had no idea, so I figured they wouldn't know, since I'm quite a bit smarter than them. But they all knew. All five of them knew. Not only that, but they couldn't believe that I didn't know and basically acted like I'm an idiot for not knowing.

    Is it strange that I've never looked closely at the Mexican flag and realized what the picture in the center of it is?
    I normally don't look closely enough at things like that to memorize the details of it. If I see a flag, I skim over it in .05 seconds and recognize it as the Mexican flag. That's all I need to know. I knew there was an emblem or something in the middle, I just never cared enough to specifically look at that center image to find out what it is.

    I can't tell you what the exact design of my credit card is. I pick it up and put it in my pocket every time I go to the store. I recognize it by glancing at it, realizing it's my card, and putting it in my pocket.

    Actually, I just picked up my card and looked at it close enough for me to recognize what the design is. Before I did this, I could just recognize what the overview of it looks like. But now that I looked closely, I realized the design is a drawing of three people holding hands. I obviously know what my card looks like, but until now, I couldn't have described it.
    Isn't this normal? Or am I weird for not making a conscious effort to look specifically at the image in the center of the Mexican flag so I can realize what the picture is?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2010 #2

    Chi Meson

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    Ask your friends "what is on the back of a dime?"

    Every American can recognize it, but about one out of a thousand could tell you what's on it.
  4. Jul 20, 2010 #3


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    Lol, I know what the design on the Mexican flag is only because I've read about it...every time I see the flag, though, it just looks like a blotch (sorry Mexico!). So I took a close look:


    Nope, I would not have recognized it.
  5. Jul 20, 2010 #4
    I didn't even know there was an emblem in the middle. I see a lot of stuff and know if I've seen it before, but I rarely every "LOOK" at it.
  6. Jul 20, 2010 #5
    That eagle's claw looks as if it should be in pain.

    And yep, I'm with you guys. I'd recognise Mexico's flag if I saw it, even briefly, but I didn't know what exactly was in the centre of it.
  7. Jul 21, 2010 #6
    I learned that when I was a kid in grade school. I'm not even sure why I remember. When I look at the flag though I do not really pay much attention.

    I actually got in a bit of trouble at work once because a large flat screen tv was stolen and I didn't notice. I would walk in the room and if the tvs were on I would turn them off but otherwise I never paid any attention to them.
  8. Jul 21, 2010 #7
    I have this problem too sometimes.
    However, I can recall fairly detailed things about objects/things/subjects that I care about.

    I'm sure for most people it's just that you see the colors, you know it's the Mexican flag, and you know that you know enough to identify it if you ever see it again.

    Let's say the first time you did see the Mexican flag, even if the thought crossed your brain:
    ok, I know enough to identify it upon a quick glance.. I see there's an eagle in the middle holding a snake, but that information is not necessary to identify it... do I care to remember this then?
    I'm sure you would have answered "no" and then deleted that knowledge from your mind (if it were that easy) :D
    because it's not something you care to know beyond the ability to identify the object.
    In fact, I would wager that at least one time you saw the flag and were like:
    great and eagle holding a snake.. oh what's over there?
    my point is that it's just not something that your conscious mind deems necessary to store in memory and it just throws it out.

    Makes me wonder, would I even want to be able to remember every little detail? Your brain would just be so full of trivial facts and junk.
    I prefer only holding the information that is necessary to me and nothing more. I'm sure you won't ever have to recall that detail about the Mexican flag again unless playing some other meaningless trivia game.
  9. Jul 21, 2010 #8
    Some philosophers also say this is an indication of P not being NP.

    It's easier to verify a proposed solution than to find it for the human mind.
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