Written by Dr Marc Green
‘I had an almost overwhelming feeling that something was pulling me toward the lead plane…Sometimes I had the feeling that I could do nothing to prevent this.'” Clark, Nicholson, & Graybiel (1953), p 433.
Clark et al. studied pilot errors due to “fascination,” concentration on some object or task that caused loss of voluntary control over response. They divided fascination into subcategories with the quote above exemplifying Type B-2, where pilots suffering felt drawn to a target and could not avoid the attraction. If the target is a light viewed at night, then the phenomenon is now called the “moth to the flame effect” or more often simply the “moth effect.”
The moth effect has also long been discussed by motorcycle riders, who call the phenomenon “target fixation”. The NHTSA-funded “Model National Standards For Entry-Level Motorcycle Rider Training” includes target fixation as a rider hazard: “staring at the object you are trying to avoid. Associated with riders striking obstacles they were attempting to avoid.” The standard warns riders to avoid such behavior.
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