Why We Might Miss Extraterrestrial Life Even If It’s Staring Us in the Face

See anything unusual in this aerial image? Credit: Modified photo of an original NASA picture
What do you get when you combine a classic psychology experiment with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence?

By Stephanie Pappas | SPACE.com

A gorilla on Mars.

OK, that one’s not going to kill on the comedy circuit. Here’s what’s going on: Researchers from the University of Cádiz in Spain found that most people who were asked to look for signs of human-made structures on alien terrain completely missed a little, waving gorilla figure inserted into one of the images.

The findings, reported in the journal Acta Astronautica on Tuesday (April 10), reveal the limitations of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or ETI: Humans are tied up in their own biases and attentional limitations and might miss alien intelligence even if it’s staring us in the face, the researchers said. [Greetings, Earthlings! 8 Ways Aliens Could Contact Us]

„We think [of] ETI as another form of humans, but much more advanced,“ study leader Gabriel G. De la Torre, a neuropsychologist at the University of Cádiz, told Live Science in an email. „We try to understand the world as [if] it was done to fit our beliefs, framework and senses. [In] reality, [it] could be much more different.“

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