Clowns are scary to some, but apparently they’re invisible to most cellphone users. According to a study involving a unicycle, a clown, and 150 college students, cellphone users were half as likely as others to notice a red-nosed, unicycle rider. Ira Hyman, Jr., a researcher at Western Washington University sent a student unicycling around campus wearing a clown costume and then asked people who’d walked past if they’d “noticed anything unusual.” The cellphone users were less than half as likely to have noticed, but Hyman speculates that it may not be the technology itself which distracts them, but instead the concentration required to maintain a conversation over that particular medium. Whatever the case, kudos to him for managing to find an excuse to run a study involving a clown.
The obvious flaw in this study is that for some people who might have been online, a clown on a unicycle wouldn’t have been unusual. I predict that this will win an Ignoble Prize next year.