Pfizer’s Greg Simon Talks Change Blindness in Drug Development

October 20, 2011 – 12:04 pm | By Trista Morrison | No comments yet

If you walked up to a desk to sign a consent form for an experiment, and the person behind the desk bent down to file your form, and a different person stood up – someone with a clearly different face, different hair, even a different colored shirt – would you notice?

As this video shows, 75 percent of people don’t – illustrating a phenomenon known as change blindness.

French researcher J. Kevin O’Regan explains change blindness thus: “a very large change in a picture will not be seen by a viewer, if the change is accompanied by a visual disturbance that prevents attention from going to the change location.” Essentially, the brain seems to select what’s important in a scene before deciding to store the information, and it cannot detect changes to elements it has not stored.

It’s the principle behind card tricks and movie magic – and it can prevent drug developers from seeing the bigger picture.

As Greg Simon, senior vice president for patient engagement at Pfizer Inc., explained during last week’s Foley & Lardner Life Sciences conference, part of the problem is that individuals are not objective – we pick and choose what’s important, and what deserves our focus, but we are “pools of irrational influences.” What we choose to focus on creates blind spots.

For example, he said, if you focus on venture capital, you will miss the new movement in passion capital, through which nonprofits are increasingly stepping up with significant funding. If you focus on p-values, you will miss the patient experience – something Pfizer is trying to remedy through more outreach to the 150,000 patients who participate in its trials each year. If you focus on regulatory approval, you’re “only going to get half way around the track” because you’ll miss payer value, Simon said. And if you focus on the cost of research and development, you will miss the value of what you bring to society.

Here’s another cool video on change blindness.


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