Daniel Simons Christopher Chabris for "Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events."
Here is the description from the Ig Noble website:
Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University, for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it's all too easy to overlook anything else -- even a man in a gorilla suit.
Here's the abstract of the paper:
With each eye fixation, we experience a richly detailed visual world. Yet recent work on visual integration and change detection reveals that we are surprisingly unaware of the details of our environment from one view to the next: we often do not detect large changes to objects and scenes ('change blindness'). Furthermore, without attention, we may not even perceive objects ('inattentional blindness'). Taken together, these findings suggest that we perceive and remember only those objects and details that receive focused attention. In this paper, we briefly review and discuss evidence for these cognitive forms of 'blindness'. We then present a new study that builds on classic studies of divided visual attention to examine inattentional blindness for complex objects and events in dynamic scenes. Our results suggest that the likelihood of noticing an unexpected object depends on the similarity of that object to other objects in the display and on how difficult the priming monitoring task is. Interestingly, spatial proximity of the critical unattended object to attended locations does not appear to affect detection, suggesting that observers attend to objects and events, not spatial positions. We discuss the implications of these results for visual representations and awareness of our visual environment
Not quite as funny as the title or short description, huh? Still, it's interesting. Go read the paper. Check out the winner in economics, too: The Vatican, for outsourcing prayers to India.