“The Purloined Letter” Lives

You will recall from Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” a story that has received a great deal of theoretical attention the past few decades, including a lengthy piece by the philosopher Jacques Derrida, that the best way to hide something is to place it in plain sight.  That is, many people do not see what is right in front of them, perhaps especially when they imagine that the thing they are looking for would be hidden.

In an experiment that you can watch below, the experimental space is labeled with a big sign, indicating that the experiment is happening where the sign is:  “Experiment here.”  Yet, 75% of the people in the experiment do not notice a few things that we (those who know what is happening) might consider obvious.


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