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Failed a Spot Check

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Prometheus: You're in luck! The bridge ahead is still intact.
[an Invader throws a car off the bridge and heads for Michael]
Michael Ford: You neglected to mention the giant alien standing on the bridge.

When a character fails to notice something important or obvious, something they would want to know, even when looking.

The name comes from a typical mechanic from RPG games, dating back from the arch-RPG Dungeons & Dragons. A character's success on various tasks is determined by a die roll combined in some way with base statistics (such as strength or intelligence) and some skill. The skills in question include several that require substantial luck, like Appraise, Use Magic Device, Hide, or the various Perform skills, but also such mundane tasks as Listen and Spot. Indeed, the Spot skill, which determines whether someone notices events around them in time to react, is often very dependent on luck, even if it's something any idiot should be able to see.

Because things like searching for hidden objects/doors/clues, "noticing what's going on out of the ordinary" or good old ambushes are all very common events in most RPG games, Spot Checks tend to be among, if not THE most common die rolls being done. A single failed Spot Check can put the whole party at a disadvantage, and if you're not lucky you can miss something vital, even while looking for it. Considering the number of Spot Checks a typical game involves, there always are instances of missing out on something because of One Bad Roll, which naturally frustrated people about Spot Checks for literally decades.


Referenced in a running gag in The Order of the Stick, which is wholly dedicated to common "back" sides of playing RPGs. Ironically, both in D&D games and in The Order of the Stick, the players will know that they failed a spot check (though D&D GMs are encouraged to roll spot checks secretly when necessary), thus they are aware of not being aware of something, only not knowing what that something is. In the D&D case, the player is aware of the character not knowing something. In The Order of the Stick case, the lack of distinction between player and character reaches the level of Medium Awareness, and is Played for Laughs.

This trope differs from Weirdness Censor (where they don't see it because it's so bizarre), Selective Obliviousness (where they don't want to see it), and Bystander Syndrome (where they ignore it because they don't care). Also differs from Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!, as there usually isn't that excuse. Opposite of Hyper-Awareness. Can often result in Right Behind Me (although that might be closer to failing a Listen check) or I'm Standing Right Here.


This doesn't necessarily imply that the character is stupid; they just aren't noticing an important "something". One of the oldest jokes in Dungeon Master's arsenal used to be for players who fail their spot checks badly enough to find themselves "discovering" something both incredibly large and plainly obvious such as an island or a mountain, instead of the one unobtrusive detail that they were trying to find.

May relate to Genre Blindness and Forgot About His Powers. May be a sign of a character carrying the Idiot Ball or being an Unwitting Pawn. When the character's creator explicitly decides what he can and cannot notice, it may lead to Plot-Sensitive Snooping Skills. In cases of characters consistently failing spot checks to penetrate a Paper-Thin Disguise, we have Clark Kenting. Someone who does this too often may be Too Dumb to Live, or it may be a case of Obfuscating Stupidity, especially if the spot check failures suddenly stop at a crucial point. Can result in the characters realizing that Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore. Also, this is Truth in Television, as anyone who lost his keys in the open middle of his desk can say. Behind the Black or No Peripheral Vision is when the character should be able to see it from his vantage point, but doesn't because the audience can't from their angle. The Chaste Hero is a character (usually male) who consistently rolls "1"s where romance is concerned. If the thing they're failing to notice is a breaking news story, that's Ignored Vital News Reports. If everyone fails to notice a creature that's big and dumb enough that its presence ought to be obvious, it's Suspiciously Stealthy Predator. If one person is looking for another person but constantly fails Spot Checks when they are close to the person they're searching for, it's Missed Him by That Much. This is usually the reason why Jump Scares happen. Banana peels, however, thrive on this trope.

The scientific term is for this phenomenon is Inattentional Blindness, so as incredible (and possibly depressing) as it sounds, it is known to happen to some degree in real life as well.

Strangely, more likely to happen to a Meganekko than someone with an Eyepatch of Power.

Contrast with Awesomeness by Analysis.

If the author does this, you may end up spotting Rouge Angles of Satin.


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    Asian Animation 
  • There is an episode of Happy Heroes where Smart S. encounters and chases after a monster that changes its appearance to match whatever object it touches. It touches a street light and turns into said object; Careless S. notices Smart S. chasing after the street lamp while crying that it's a monster, at which point he gets confused since he doesn't realize it's a monster and therefore doesn't see it. You'd think the fact that a street lamp of all things is even moving by itself at all would tip him off that something's going on.
  • Lamput: One episode has Fat Doc pop a balloon decoy set up by Lamput, which leads him to believe he's accidentally killed him. Lamput himself appears to give the crying Fat Doc a handkerchief, but Fat Doc fails to notice who gives it to him.

    Comic Books 
  • In Death of the Family, Catwoman finds herself trying to move giant chess pieces containing people around. She fails to notice a person's head sticking out of a pawn.
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Batwoman and Harley Quinn leave a gathering of a resistance group seconds before Superman arrives, busting through a glass ceiling and laying waste to the building. Neither woman notices this until they've made it halfway down the block on Batwoman's motorcycle and she spots flames in her rearview mirror.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Euryale fails to notice a pissed off Pegasus dramatically rising from the pooling blood beneath her beheaded mortal sister. This allows Pegasus to easily knock her out when she tries to run Diana through to avenge Medusa.


  • The Fantastic Four once managed to miss that Dr. Doom and Franklin Richards had switched bodies despite Doom not remotely bothering to stay in character. They ended up Brainwashed and Crazy and needing to be rescued by the Power Pack.
  • The second House of M mini-series features a fight between Hawkeye, Misty Knight, Black Cat, and Magneto. It's only after Magneto is incapacitated that the rest notice Fin Fang Foom, a gigantic Chinese dragon, who had been lurking just off-screen. Promptly lampshaded by Misty:
    "How are we just now seeing the dragon?! It's not even that big of a room!"


  • Transformers contains an epic example. Unicron, a planet-sized devourer of worlds is able to sneak up on the planet of Cybertron with no-one noticing him until he's close enough to take up the entire sky, because they're all busy fighting over whether or not they need to team up to take him on (that's right, they know he's coming and still don't have so much as a lookout to provide an early warning signal).

    This very moment was lampshaded by Kup at the end of American #74. Kup asks Primus "You can sense Unicron, correct?" When given the answer of "yes, through our bond" Kup points to the sky behind Primus (and it may be noted, that the group Kup just walked away from to ask this question, has already been seen to be huddling together out of apprehension) and asks "Then how in the name of creation did you miss THAT?" Revealed in the next issue by Primus himself: Unicron snuck up on the planet in a shut-down state. He drifted up on them, and it's quite likely that the rather small army (this was before Grimlock's contingent of reactivated 'bots came back in the Ark) was still working out unit assignments and the like, going by the state of "the army" in the very next issue. That being, highly unprepared and it's no small wonder so many got deactivated...

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County:
    • Taken Up to Eleven by Steve Dallas' mother, who thought Steve's father (her first husband) had been dead for twenty years, and married and divorced six other men during that time. After aliens made Steve a kind, sensitive person using the "Gephardtization" process, he told her that not only was his father alive, he was where he had always been, reading the sports section of the paper in the den at their house (next to the ceramic poinsettias). His mom said she had honestly just never noticed him there.
    • That wasn't the first time she had missed something that was obvious. She never realized the true reason Liberace never married (it was hardly a secret to most fans that he was gay) and used him as an example in at least two strips while trying to convince Steve not to remain single. It came as quite a shock to her when Steve let it slip in the middle of one such argument.
  • In one series of The Boondocks strips, Granddad wanted to see a movie that was, in his words, "manly", so he and Tom went to see Brokeback Mountain, thinking that it would fit the bill simply because the newspaper said it was "about cowboys". (Both Riley and Huey knew more about the plot than that, and Granddad had no idea why the two were laughing at him.) In fact, despite the fact that there were several gay couples at the movie, Granddad didn't get the point until he was about halfway through seeing it. (And even then, Tom had to explain it to him; Granddad often had a hard time grasping concepts in modern media.)
  • In one Sunday Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown and Lucy are talking about a museum exhibit she went to while drinking lemonade when Snoopy comes up behind and takes a sip of hers. She doesn't notice, even as she resumes sipping it, but Charlie Brown sure does and is noticeably squicked. Eventually, Lucy tells him, "You know, it's hard to talk while you keep making those weird faces!"

  • During Marisa's battle against Cirno in the Touhou fanfic Average Joe In Bullet Hell, she begins shooting off repeated Master Sparks. She stops firing after a while to take a breather but finds out that the one tree that wasn't blown up was where Cirno was hiding.
  • Averted in the The Walking Dead fanfic Better Angels when Shane immediately spots the herd of Walkers bearing down on Hershel's farm, whereas Rick didn't notice them in canon. This alludes to Shane's survival instincts being much stronger than Rick's.
  • In the Harry Potter fanfic The Boy Who Died A Lot, Madam Hooch refuses to entertain the notion that the bludgers have been sabotaged, insisting that nothing can get past her wands.
  • On two occasions in Metal Gear Solid: Fight of Metal Gears, Jake Snake fails to notice enemies until Otacon calls him and tells him that they're behind him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan works:
    • Ultra Fast Pony. Fluttershy is supposed to wait for the snow to be cleared away before she wakes up the animals. She fails to notice that the ground is still covered in snow, even when she's standing in it.
      Fluttershy: I thought it was dandruff!
    • In Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure, Twilight doesn't notice that Celestia is evil until it is pointed out to her, despite its extreme obviousness based on the description immediately following said pointing-out.
    • Dash's New Mom: Twilight Sparkle fails to realize that the stallion she's dating, Blue Streak, is Rainbow Dash's daddy. Since the daughter is almost a dead ringer for her father, Twilight is very sheepish when Rainbow points out how obvious at least some relation would be.
    • There was a brief period where Bonbon of the Reading Rainbowverse was actually in a tumblr dashboard. Both Lyra and Fluttershy tried to get her attention... but the relevant posts always moved out of view right before she turned to look.
    • In Diaries of a Madman, Rainbow Dash and Navarone are completely oblivious to the fact that they've entered a restaurant for couples until they get inside and bump into Rarity, somehow failing to be tipped off by the name of The Loveboat.
    • After consummating his relationship with Celestia in TD the Alicorn Princess, TD somehow fails to notice her lying in his bed when waking up the morning after. After eventually noticing, he ends up wondering what she's doing there before the memories come back.
    • In About Last Night..., Pinkie Pie, who knows all details about all her friends, doesn't recognize Rarity's double is not her.
      Pinkie: Ooh! A wall!
    • Much like in "Fall Weather Friends", Twilight fails to notice the large crowd of spectators in A Pony Out of Place until Pinkie points them out to her.
      Pinkie: All right everypony! Let's all give a hoof to our two competitors!
      Twilight: Pinkie? Who the hay are you talking to?
      Pinkie: (pointing) Them.
      Twilight: One of these days... I'm going to learn not to ask.
    • This happens to Limestone in the Harmony's Warriors side-story "Trottingham Pink", when she doesn't realize the pink mare she was facing was her sister.
    • Spike in Past Sins MST, who somehow didn't see Twilight carrying Nyx when she returned from the Everfree Forest.
    • In The Great Slave King, Captain Sing Sing orders his guards to escort prisoners who had escaped in a jailbreak back to the cells before the princesses find out, only to find a bemused Celestia looking straight down at him.
    • In Chapter 2 of The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments, Applejack misses all of the apple-related food at the meal during her initial look at the table.
    • In the World of Warcraft/My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic crossover World of Ponycraft, the guards' perception range follows the aggro rules, allowing the group to pick them off in small groups.
    • In Stroll, the bandits who originally kidnapped Octavia don't seem to notice when the cargo they stole - and the pony who came with it - have fallen out of the back of their wagon.
    • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: While exploring the Questioning Order’s vault, Rex finds the Crystal Heart hidden in a small hidden area of the wall. Thinking it’s only a replica, he puts it back, unaware it was the real thing, or that (per Word Of God) Sombra was the one who hid it there, with the Questioning Order having never found it.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim does this a few times:
    • Dib does this twice in the first chapter — first, when he overlooks the Big Red Button on the Spittle Runner's console, and later when he's trying to escape Norlock's castle and doesn't see a nearby window right away.
    • In Episode 2, Dib is keeping an eye out for Zim at the Parent Teacher conference, and yet Zim's whole group sneaks up behind him.
    • At the start of Episode 4, Zim and Skoodge somehow fail to notice Phil in the same room as them, despite his size.
    • In Episode 7, when Dib and Steve are hiking through the woods to reach the unburied Meekrob ship, they completely miss a dirt road leading right there. Though Dib comments it wasn't on the map, so it's not entirely their fault.
    • Also in Episode 7, Zim fails to notice Dib and Steve's presence in the Children of the Bright and Shining Saucer camp, until they speak up.
    • In Episode 16, Team Save Earth fail to notice the monster army attacking the city until Mortos points it out to them.
  • PRIMARCHS lampshades this concept, in one of its many homages to Final Fantasy, when the Primarchs have a "random encounter" with some daemons on their way to meet Abbadon.
  • The reason why Azula was able to infiltrate the Earth King's palace in the Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic Retroactive. Despite all the guards, they were unprepared for someone who had already infiltrated Ba Sing Se, observed the security routines, and loaded up on potential weapons for sale right there in the city. It's implied that this is a result of purging the Dai Li, who normally would have been spying on the populace and both detecting and diffusing those kinds of plots before they could even get to the palace. Of course, Long Feng especially would realize this, hence why he sends Azula to take advantage of that exact weakness.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
    • In Act II, after fighting off a vampire agent in Ashton City, Moka fails to realize several obvious things (the agent's fighting style, personal knowledge of Moka, and voice over the radio) that prove the agent's identity as her sister Akua, even dismissing the odd coincidence that Akua and Kahlua just happened to show up at Yokai Academy right after the gang returned there from Ashton City. It isn't until Act III chapter 42, where the group discovers from Hokuto that Akua and Kahlua lied and Fairy Tale is not only still active, but coming to Yokai Academy for a full-scale attack, that Moka puts it together; she promptly lampshades how blind she was to not have put it together beforehand.
    • In Act III chapter 46, when Kou returns to Yokai Academy and reveals to the headmaster that Fairy Tale stole the Chrono Displacement spell from Issa Shuzen's archives, he somehow doesn't take into account the fact that the archive in question was a family secret that only Issa and his daughters knew about, and thus the only way Fairy Tale could have known about the archive, let alone the spell, is if Akua and Kahlua had been in league with them, until he actually says it out loud.
    • In Act IV chapter 17, Falla mistakes a bottle of Yukari's love-struck potion for perfume, completely failing to notice the warning note Ruby left next to it.
    • Throughout Act IV, Tsukune and co. expect Hokuto to pull off a full-scale attack on Yokai Academy to capture Moka, as per what happened in an Alternate Timeline. However, they fail to consider the fact that Luna and Falla, two Time Masters, were not present in said Alternate Timeline, and are completely unprepared when Hokuto, who did take Luna and Falla's presence into account, goes with a Divide and Conquer tactic instead by having Jovian and Jacqueline hold Tsukune's mother and cousin hostage.
  • Until he runs right into him, Mike Evens is too deep in thought to notice the large and rather muscular henchman in his way as he leaves for home after stealing important documents from his boss in the Lilo & Stitch: The Series fanfic Aliens.
  • First in the second Chapter 14 of Supper Smash Bros: Mishonh From God with the entire British Military coming "outta nowere". Despite behaving as they did in American Revolution with marching in straight rows and having drummer boys keeping them in rhythm. Later, in Chapter 16, Mao Zedong shows up riding FREAKIN GODZILLA despite Sara not seeing anything seconds earlier and being on "hi alurt".
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic Teaching Darkness, this happens to Iblis when the sun sets, giving Dark the advantage.
  • This Bites!:
    • During the Alubarna banquet in Chapter 22, Cross is so exuberant out of successfully tying Luffy's tongue around his own head that he neglects to check what he's eating: biscuits.
    • After Enel is defeated, Conis is so distraught over losing her island, her father, and contemplating her decision to join the Straw Hats, that she doesn't notice her father standing behind her comforting her.
  • In a fan film of Uncharted, while Nathan is being beaten while handcuffed to a chair, one of the mooks watching notices that the compass they took from him is missing its southern hand. He brings it up but it's too late. Nathan has already used it to get free of the handcuffs and starts a brawl with those in the room.
  • Played for Drama in Amazing Fantasy. In her rush to meet up with Martin to participate a raid on a Demons hideout, Melissa neglected to insert the last two screws of the electric eel cage, which allowed it to shatter and electrocute Max.

    Film — Animation 
  • Happens a lot in An American Tail, where Fievel and his family keep narrowly missing each other.
  • In the Canadian animated short film The Big Snit, the protagonist couple fail multiple spot checks regarding the nuclear war that has broken out while they were distracted by their own differences.
    • The husband is fast asleep when the nuclear war is announced on the television, and only wakes up when the family cat chews through the cord. He looks out of the window at the screaming masses in the streets, and... concludes that they must be there for some sort of parade. He gives the scene no further thought.
    • At the end of the short, the husband and wife somehow do not notice that they have been killed in a nuclear explosion and gone to heaven, in spite of the very otherworldly scene stretching before them. The husband simply remarks that on days like this, he doesn't feel like doing much of anything, and suggests that he and his wife finish their Scrabble game.
  • Coco: Mamá Imelda falls victim to this trope three times:note 
    • The first time is when Miguel claims that the guitar that cursed him belonged to his great-great-grandfather. She doesn't realize that he shouldn't know who her husband is, and even if he did, that he couldn't have found the guitar that belonged to him, given what she thinks she knows about him.
    • It's obvious when Miguel bails from his family that he's going to look for his great-great-grandfather. Imelda catches him minutes later leaving the station with Héctor. When Imelda finally catches up with Miguel, Héctor is no longer with him, a sign that Miguel has the wrong idea of who her husband is. This also seems to go right over her head.
    • The most glaring instance has to be when they search for Miguel at the music competition. None of the Riveras notice him on the stage with Héctor, who are singing a song that Héctor wrote for Imelda.
    • Then at the end, it turns out her banning music and trying to forget her husband has made it so neither she nor their daughter would recognize his guitar and songs were used by Ernesto De La Cruz, his partner and supposed best friend. She has unintentionally allowed his murderer to remain unpunished for almost a century.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, the protagonists disguise themselves as Gallaxhar-clones merely by donning their uniform. The other clones fail to notice that they look nothing like Gallaxhar.
  • Something very similar happens in Shrek 2. Shrek sneaks into the factory of the Fairy Godmother, by disguising himself in one of the workers' uniforms. Fine, except the workers are gnomes, he's an ogre, and the entire uniform only covers his head.
  • In The Transformers: The Movie, Jazz is stationed on Moonbase One and yells out "Where'd that come from?!" when Unicron attacks. Unicron is the size of a huge freaking planet. How could Jazz have missed that even if he wasn't monitoring the sensors? This is apparently a specialty of Unicron's since he pulled it at the beginning of the movie- he wasn't noticed by the first planet he attacked until he was practically within chomping distance, and he also pulled it off in the Marvel Transformers comic run (see above).

  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decide to go on a camping trip. After dinner and a bottle of wine, they fall asleep in their tent. Some hours later, Holmes awakes and nudges his faithful friend.
    Holmes: Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.
    Watson: I see millions of stars.
    Holmes: What does that tell you?
    Watson: [thinks for a minute] Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.
    Holmes: What else?
    Watson: [exasperated] I don't know! What does it tell you, Holmes?
    Holmes: [facepalming] Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!

  • In 1635: The Cannon Law, a Spanish officer is irritated by an Inquisitor who accuses him — an officer from a known noble family — of being a secret Jew because he slept in on a Saturday, while completely missing the two actual Jews in his unit. Then again, the two Jewish soldiers weren't that observant, to the point that he imagines a hypothetical Jewish Inquisition might suspect them of being secret Christians.
  • In Battlefield Earth (the book), Fort Knox is one of the first places the gold-loving Psychlos hit. The humans get the gold for their plan from an armored car, which still leads to the same problem as in the movie, of how the Psychlos missed all the gold that humans had already mined.
  • In Dragon Queen, Trava fails to spot a dragon. Luckily, Sajag sees it.
  • The Dresden Files: In Fool Moon, Harry makes an "invisibility" potion which works by inducing this trope on anyone nearby. It works too well, and he is unable to get the guard's attention to save him from the Loup-Garou.
  • A boy in one Encyclopedia Brown book is notorious for this. The narration mentions that he once hired the title character to find his wristwatch when it was on his other wrist the whole time.
  • In Ender's Game, when Ender is first assigned to Salamander Army, he doesn't know anyone there other than its commander is a boy named Bonzo Madrid. When Petra is the first person to approach him to talk, Ender thinks she might be Bonzo. Initially this could be an understandable mistake, since everyone involved is a prepubescent and there isn't much physical difference between boys and girls at that age—except one obvious one. Later on in that scene it's revealed she was standing there stark naked.
  • In the children's book Good Night, Gorilla, a zookeeper fails to notice the titular gorilla stealing his keys, letting itself out of its cage and freeing several other animals (including an elephant, a giraffe, and a lion). Then all the animals follow him home to his bedroom and he doesn't notice anything until his wife says good night to him and all the animals respond "Good Night."
  • This trope is used as a major plot point by two members of the main trio in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to accomplish some daring rescues during Time Travel without being seen by their past selves.
  • This causes a character's death in A Memory of Flames. He forgets that he's wearing the armor of a dragon knight when he walks into a village filled with people who have hated dragon knights for generations. All the more bizarre when the character himself hates knights.
  • One Murderous Maths book, dealing with ellipses, featured a group of evil aliens dragging a giant space rock into the path of Earth's orbit (which they had plotted as a circle) and adopting a position some distance out of the way, only to be rudely surprised to learn that the Earth's orbit is an ellipse when the planet crashes into them unexpectedly. Needless to say, this requires absolutely heinous incompetence, because even though the Earth moves at thousands of miles per hour, it is a frigging planet.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's The Purloined Letter is about a man who possesses a letter which is highly embarrassing to the royal family, and is blackmailing them with it. He freely allows the police to search his house, and after a very thorough search they come up empty. He had hidden the letter in the one place no-one would think to look: in a card holder, out in the open.
  • In The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft, our hero is fleeing and has the entire Town with a Dark Secret after him. He has made it out of the town proper and is following an abandoned railroad. He hears them coming and in desperation, dives into a nearby ditch. And... the entire search party just passes him by. A force that big, and it never occurred to any of them to search the surrounding area instead of just sticking to the railroad. Even for a bunch of degenerate mutants, that's pretty jaw-dropping. To make matters worse, the protagonist actually faints from horror so it's not like he was making much effort.
  • Sherlock Holmes never had this problem, and was, in fact, the polar opposite, but Watson often seems oblivious to the most thuddingly obvious clues. The level of obliviousness varies depending on the particular portrayal, being fairly low in the original stories, but played up by Nigel Bruce. In the original stories, Watson just doesn't make logical conclusions in ways that would solve crimes. Holmes usually asks Watson to come with him when there is a slim chance of sudden assault. With firearms. At night. Watson, when prompted by Holmes, can be said to make quite a lot of intelligent and observational jumps — and in stories like The Hound of the Baskervilles, where he has to function in Holmes' absence, he is nonetheless very effective at helping Holmes. He's good — Holmes is just so much better.
  • In Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Simon was too caught up in his own insecurities to put on the Elliot Smith shirt Blue got him for Christmas, so he almost missed the note taped inside that reaffirms his love for Simon.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, during Tyrion's second trial, he notes that there are six Kingsguard in the crowd. Since there are only five active members of the Kingsguard currently in the city—the others being either dead or in Dorne—the sixth member can only be his beloved brother, but he doesn't make this connection.
  • In one Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, "A Time for War, A Time for Peace", Kahless II swapped himself with a hologram for six months to see if anyone would notice. How did Martok and the High Council find out? When the Klingon rebel group Klahb took over a Federation Embassy and demanded the removal of the hologram.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the X-Wing Series, Wedge is preparing to depart on a mission where he is disguised as Han Solo. He is traveling on an imitation of the Millennium Falcon dubbed the Millennium Falsehood and has Chewbacca along to fly and help maintain the charade. Literally minutes before launch, Wes Janson points out to Wedge the minor detail that has been overlooked:
      Wes Janson: Wedge, you don't speak Wookiee.
  • The Stormlight Archive: In Edgedancer, Lift fails to notice the Indicium — the only building in Yeddaw that sticks above the ground level — until it's pointed out to her. Keep in mind that she actually ran to the city from the hills, and even commented on how flat it was.
    Lift: Was it always there?
    Wyndle: Yes, actually.

  • Daniel Amos uses this twice in their album Horrendous Disc.
    • "(Near Sighted Girl with Approaching) Tidal Wave", the girl of the title ignores warning signs—such as other people screaming and fleeing the beach—and is completely taken by surprise when the tidal wave comes.
    • "On the Line" points out how the listener is constantly ignoring messages from God.
  • The P.D.Q. Bach string quartet, The Moose starts with the performers playing a few awful-sounding bars, restarting, and only then noticing that they've been playing the wrong parts, in the wrong clefs.

    Music Videos 
  • In the music video for the Caravan Palace song "Lone Digger," the dancer is completely oblivious to the fact that a very bloody fight is happening around her, even when blood splashes on her body, until the end of the video when everybody else is dead.

  • Happens in the Cool Kids Table game Homeward Bound 4. Josh manages to hide in a few trees when the humans come after them, While Shannon and Jake are stuck out in the open for humans to find, Josh manages to disguise himself by hiding behind a few trees. Also they're all dinosaurs and Josh is a T-Rex, which is why him being able to hide like that is so notable.
    • In The Fallen Gods, Tuatha doesn't notice that the party's room at the inn has been disturbed and search because she's drop-dead drunk.
    • In Sequinox, the team didn't notice the Amazing Technicolour Population that is one of the stars with bright red skin standing around amongst a group of human newsies in episode 12.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Referees. All. The. Time.
    • Halloween Havoc '97, Steve "Mongo" McMichael vs. Alex Wright. Wright won thanks to interference from Goldberg... who was in the ring for 2 minutes while the ref was distracted by Debra... despite the wrestlers bumping into him while so distracted. Even better? He looks back twice while the interference was going on.
    • While referees are easily distracted allowing for all sorts of shenanigans and can't put two and two together, the referee of this match deserves honorable mention.
  • Wrestlers also frequently pay poor attention to anything not directly in front of them, allowing opponents to easily sneak up and blind side them. The TV cameras often try to emulate this with selective viewing angles, although a loud cheer or boo from the arena crowd will usually alert viewers that someone new has just shown up to interfere. The wrestlers never notice this crowd reaction either.

  • All over the place in Bleak Expectations, usually for the purposes of humor.
    • For example, Pip Bin fails to recognize his evil ex-guardian Mister Benevolent regardless of the man's disguise, or that the latest person he's met is one of Benevolent's henchmen. And then there was the time he spent seven hours ranting at a member of parliament before realizing the man was dead.
    • There's also the Reverend Godly Fecund, who didn't catch on that his parishioners had all died from starvation. Pip Bin fails to recognize him when they meet up again in series 4, even though nothing about the man has changed. Meanwhile, Reverend Fecund fails to notice that Harry Biscuit is at that moment a dinosaur.


  • In Major League Baseball (or baseball in general), there is a trick play called the "hidden ball trick" that relies on base runners and their coaches failing to spot that an infielder has the ball, allowing said infielder to tag out said base runner as soon as he steps off the base. This does not happen very often, however.
  • When playing dodgeball even a small, weak player can get the strong ones out by tossing a ball while they're throwing.
  • Several of the more spectacular American/Canadian football trick plays rely on the opposing team failing to notice one player on the other team doing something oddly: why is that player hunched over in the middle of the field, not moving, as if he were bent over concealing a football, while the play has moved over to the sidelines?
  • NFL examples:
    • The Chicago Bears were set to return a punt, they placed their two best returners (Devin Hester and Johnny Knox) back to receive the punt. The ball is kicked, a few seconds later, Hester took off up the field, moving towards the left sideline. Every player on the field followed him to block for him or to stop him. Every player except one, that is; Johnny Knox was the one who actually caught the ball and streaked up the right sideline to the opposing endzone. Too bad the play was called back because of a holding penalty on a different Bear.
    • Keep in mind that Hester is widely regarded as one of the best returners of all time (he holds the records for both most punt return touchdowns and most (kick and punt combined) return touchdowns) so the defense focusing on him is entirely logical.
    • It happened again in a game in 2014 between the Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams. On a punt by the Seahawks, primary return man Tavon Austin drifted to his left, frantically moving around as if he had trouble locating the punt against the background of the stadium's domed ceiling. The Rams players moved to block for him, and the Seahawks moved to follow. Unnoticed by nearly everyone was wideout Stedman Bailey, who caught the punt on the right side of the field, then ran up the sideline while most of the Seahawks were oblivious. He too scored a touchdown, and unlike the Bears example, there was no penalty on the play.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Risk: If you pay too much attention to one threat — say, the most immediate one, such as the continent-breaking attack the South American player has launched at the southern North American border — you'll miss another player quietly adding troops in an undefended area, making the turn in which someone takes Alaska and holds it with 12 troops a bit of a surprise. It would also behoove you to pay attention to how many cards your enemies have, but this is war, damnit! Electronic Arts seems to have programmed their computer players to routinely fail to monitor the whole board, possibly in a combination of Truth in Television and Artificial Stupidity.
  • Scrabble. Seriously, how many times did you have the letters to make a high-scoring word but didn't notice it? (Homer had this problem in The Simpsons episode "Bart the Genius", where he didn't realize he could have spelled "oxidize".)
  • In Zombie Plague, players may search any spot they haven't searched, even if others have searched it, and what one player finds is completely independent of what another might find. It's entirely possible for one player to search a locker and find nothing but car keys, then have the next player search the same locker and find a chainsaw. The expansion turns the whole game Up to Eleven, making the possibilities even wilder.
  • There's one stat in Call of Cthulhu literally called "Spot Hidden". Roll a 100 and guess what happens... though sometimes it's a blessing, as ignorance is bliss and one can easily Go Mad from the Revelation.
  • Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies suggests the GM tells the players what their characters are checking to spot, and if players then fail the check, the player gets to explain why. For example, the GM will call for a check to notice an assassin sneaking into the team's home, and a player who fails might say they were busy cleaning their gear... meaning they're armed when they do finally notice.
  • This is just one of the myriad of issues plaguing the Syndicate in Mage: The Ascension. One infamous example is that they created and funded Pentex, which became a hotbed of Nephandic and Wyrmish taint and corruption pretty much immediately, and it took roughly a century before the Syndicate as a whole even realized what happened. While that's perhaps the most blatant example, this trope is consistently a huge issue for them.

  • Character obliviousness is a genre convention for several stylized theatrical forms, particularly opera. There's no unified standard, of course, but the basic rules are roughly as follows: anyone hiding behind or under something is invisible, and that talking or even singing won't attract attention unless their speech happens to be a startled exclamation; anyone wearing a mask is unrecognizable, sometimes even obscuring gender. Individual productions have been known to subvert these rules, for instance by having all five eavesdroppers on a scene hide behind the same chair, concealed for plot purposes not only from the scene's principals but also from each other.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace makes this a Running Gag, first with hero Mortimer completely failing to notice his Ax-Crazy brother Jonathan sneaking up behind him with a curtain cord, and then taken to Refuge in Audacity levels with the policemen who visit the house. Not only do they completely misinterpret the reason for Mortimer being tied up, but they don't recognize Jonathan and Dr. Einstein from wanted posters in the precinct even while he's trying to kill them. This is given a brutal Lampshade Hanging by the police chief later. And, of course, there's the ultimate Running Gag about the bodies in the cellar, which the police don't investigate even when told about them... four times.
  • The Pirates of Penzance:
    • When Major-General Stanley is introduced, the pirates (and possibly the girls) fail their spot check on him (depending on the staging, this may overlap with Right Behind Me):
      Pirates: We'd better pause, or danger may befall; their father is a Major-General.
      Girls: Yes, yes he is a Major-General.
      Stanley: Yes, yes I am a Major-General.
    • General Stanley rolls a 1 about six times on his spot check during "Sighing Softly to the River" in the climax. He fails to notice the roughly two dozen pirates and policemen who are not only hiding (poorly) in his garden but are actually singing along with him.
      Stanley: And as I lay in bed, awake, I thought I heard, a noise.
      Pirates/Policemen: He thought he heard a noise. Ha Ha!
      Stanley: No. All is still, on dale, on hill. My mind is set at ease...
    • Don't forget the lines that precede it.
      Pirates: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes
      Policemen: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes
      Stanley: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes
    • Of course, the pirates themselves completely fail to notice the (badly) hidden policemen who are singing along with them.
    • And the scene where the pirates sing loudly about how quietly they are sneaking up to the Major General's house before engaging in a little burglary in "With Cat-Like Tread" (the badly hidden policemen join in here as well occasionally). The line that they "never speak a word" is technically true, because they belt them out at the tops of their lungs in song instead. "A fly's footfall would be distinctly heard" indeed.
  • In Pokémon Live!, Jessie and James report that Ash got away from them while walking right past them.

  • How about spotting that one Lego piece you really need? That one piece you KNOW there are several copies in the same pile? That very one piece you saw FIVE times when you weren't actually looking for it?
  • This also happens when doing a jigsaw puzzle.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: You could be forgiven for thinking that the prosecutor's office and the police force both go out of their way to hire people who are guaranteed to fail spot checks, as the only way to win is to find evidence that the prosecution missed or a conflict between testimony given and evidence. Sometimes justified, but it can reach the ridiculous: at various points, you'll wind up retrieving murder weapons, security camera footage, and evidence left for over a month that's immediately visible as crucial to the case. In the second case of the first game, you will have to remind a detective of the victim's cause of death and the fact that the death was immediate (to be fair, this is Gumshoe we're talking about). Later games lampshade the process. The series takes an aversion in Apollo Justice when both the new prosecutor and detective begin by taking a level up before advancing.
  • Danganronpa: It's fairly common for most students to not notice obvious hints or make obviously wrong conclusions, and the protagonist and other savvy characters have to point that out. Speaking of conclusions, the protagonists have to play mini-games in their minds to make the correct and logical ones. This can also be invoked by picking the wrong choices deliberately.
    • Failing a spot check is also the ultimate cause of death for multiple characters throughout the series, the first being the second death in the series, Mukuro Ikusaba, canonically more than agile and powerful to dodge a bunch of spears, but doesn’t notice them due to being too focused on being in character as Junko, despite getting forewarning by Monokuma calling his attack.
  • HF route in Fate/stay night. Nobody except Ilya, who isn't saying anything about what she knows (a surprisingly large amount), notices that Shirou took the cloth off his arm, meaning every time he projects he causes himself brain damage. His memories and ability to concentrate go pretty early, and no-one notices.
  • In some routes of Nightshade, Kuroyuki's failure to catch one is what kicks off the plot. He was ordered to murder Hideyoshi Toyotami, but didn't realize that Enju was in the next room over when he did, and so Enju ends up being accused of the crime.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
    • After discovering that Lotus's death had happened recently, Junpei fails to realize that the floor they were on had only one elevator to serve as the only entrance/exit. And since he didn't bump into anyone on the way down, the killer was still on the floor. Guess what happens to Junpei next...
    • Happens more than once in the Submarine ending. Upon seeing Santa, Ace, and Clover lying dead on the ground, Lotus immediately points out they should leave before the killer returns. However, they don't check to see if the victims' bracelets are still on (they fall off if the wearer dies) and don't realize Ace was still alive. Later on, Junpei fails to notice that some of them disappeared from right next to him. Given the shock that the characters go through at these discoveries though, it's justified that they aren't paying a ton of attention to relatively minor details.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward (the sequel to 999), Sigma badly fails a spot check when he doesn't realize his voice has changed, or that he's missing an eye, or that with the exception of his arms he's suddenly 67 years old.

    Web Animation 
  • asdfmovie: "Hey guys, check out my new camera!" *BANG* "Oh wait, this isn't a camera."
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • Descius fails to notice a five-meters-tall Primarch standing in front of him, although the unspotted himself suggests it's more of a case of Selective Obliviousness.
    • Both superhumans checking the mail that's supposed to enter Emperor's private chamber fail to notice Nurgle's Rot bomb in one of the packages.
    • Salamanders somehow completely miss a giant, earth-shaking tank rolling right past them, as well as several brightly-colored Ultramarines accompanying it. It later becomes a Running Gag that Salamanders are nearly deaf, which is why they all speak with a deep booming voice, and that some cosmic force is making it so that the Ultramarines always succeed at what they're doing, no matter how impossible it is.
    • Corvus Corax somehow doesn't notice the Greater Catachan Barking Toad that's snuck onto his head to suckle on his ammonia-laded hair until one of the Catachan Jungle Fighters realizes it's there. Kayvaan Shrike both lampshades and berates himself incredulously for how he could have missed that. Granted, they were all busy freaking out about Vulkan messing with the Lesser Catachan Barking Toad seconds before, but they had more than enough time to figure it out.
  • In Machinima series Red vs. Blue Badass Action Girl heroine Tex at one point says she is going to go take out a small army of mooks. Knowing that she is a Stealth Expert the audience naturally expects her to move in ninja style and take them on one at a time. Instead, she picks a single target and starts thrashing him loudly and in full view. The sentries watching guard continue their inane conversation, even raising their voices to be heard over the screams of their distressed comrade who is right behind them.
  • Being intended as a guide for Team Fortress 2, Team Service Announcement often warns about doing this.
    • In "Objectives", the spawn camping RED Team fails to notice a lone BLU spy that made it past them. This proves fatal.
      Announcer: The payload has almost reached the final terminus!
      RED Team: ...AAAAAAAAA!!!
    • BLU tries their hardest pushing the cart in "Body Blocking", failing to notice the RED Spy hiding in front of it who's canceling their efforts.
    • All the BLU Snipers in "Class Balance" don't seem to see the RED Heavy capturing the King of the Hill control point.
    • Heck, "Attention and Initiative" is built around a particularly brutal Double Subversion, because it shows RED Team not responding to any threat to their progress, noticing the problems just in time to help but not actually helping.
    • "Minigun Spinup" has a Heavy being followed by an enemy Spy and Sniper. They eventually get tired of it and decide to run him over with a steamroller.

  • Homestuck:
    • It's implied that Equius's "Heir of Void" power amounts to being able to make things impossible to spot check. This can range from pixelization on musclebeast penises to hiding something from the omniscient view of a god. Specifically, it was implied with his Ancestor Darkleer, who had the ability of the Void.
    • Previous to this, Dave Strider manages to mistake the apocalypse for a heatwave.
    • On a more meta level, it took almost two years for the fans to notice that Dave's hair is a bird, which subsequently became a meme.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, it has been implied that it is impossible to find anything that has been deliberately hidden in Bob's sock drawer (such as a 65-million-year-old iridium bomb). Because there are just so many socks in it.
  • In Knights of Buena Vista, Mary races her PC down a street to foil a robbery, but rolls a 2 to see if she notices Bill's character riding right to her. That's how Anna in Frozen got knocked into the boat.
  • The Looking for Group crew does this once. Somehow they fail to notice the dragon perched conspicuously atop the spire in the middle of the cavern while they go down into the crater to play with the eggs. Oops. Apparently, it was a statue before they touched the eggs.
  • In MegaTokyo, countless photos of Miho are uploaded online by Ping, causing her to go from zero online presence to massive meme overnight. Piro assumed it was a jilted ex-boyfriend, even though Ping stamped every individual photo with her serial number.
    Piro: Huh? Ping?
    Miho: Who else would it be?? These are all from when she was with me!!
    Piro: How was I supposed to know that?
    Miho: You can even see her in the mirror!!
    Piro: What? I never saw Ping—
    Miho: That's because you were too busy staring at my underwear!!
  • Mulder and Scully of Monster of the Week repeatedly fail a spot check, and (surprisingly) it's rarely lampshaded. For example, Mulder doesn't notice that the Senator who ordered him to investigate the aliens has a photo of himself shaking an alien's hand, and Scully doesn't notice that her doctor's surname is Evil.
  • Yeagar doesn't seem to notice that the guy he's asking for directions is a demon from the pits of Hell (albeit a polite one) carrying a victim in one strip of Nodwick.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Belkar does this so often it's become a Running Gag, which the characters hang lampshades on. A Justified Trope, given that Wisdom, which Spot and Listen checks are based on, is his Dump Stat. He misses an army of ninjas while they are talking to him. To his credit, Haley and V fail their spot checks as well, and Belkar is alerted to the presence of something because while he's not aware of the ninjas, he's aware of his own failed spot checks.
      Belkar: Wait! I think I just failed a Listen check!
    • By the rules, ninja are hard to spot (and automatically considered hiding regardless of circumstances). Belkar can't even spot the ninja panel in the bonus page about the Pirates vs. Ninjas controversy.
    • And shortly after Belkar finally succeeds on a spot check, the bad guys fail.
    • Then Celia takes her turn, strolling through Greysky City and completely missing the various rampant evil acts that happen all around.
    • Secret doors are hard to spot, even though they are doors that are clearly marked as secret doors.
  • In Sinfest, Seymour often walks past Jesus without noticing him.
  • In Sleepless Domain Heartful Punch somehow missed that three members of Team Alchemical died, despite it being city-wide headlines and there being a school assembly on it (which she did admit she skipped). When she comes across Undine alone, she just thought they broke up, and Undine doesn't disabuse her of that notion because she appreciated being treated normally. HP feels horrible about how insensitive she inadvertently was when she finds out what happened.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • In "Art Belial", Aylee calls Riff for help because she can't find her way out of Art Belal's (sic)note  large compound. When he gets there and the creatures living inside agree to help them find the exit, they point to a big obvious door with the word "EXIT" all over it.
    • In "Most Wonderful Time", someone has stolen all the main characters' Christmas stuff, including the tree. Eventually Riff and Zoë notice Kiki's hidden it under the couch they're sitting on wondering where it's all gone. The tree doesn't remotely fit under the couch and they haven't been noticing the fact that the couch is at about a thirty-degree angle from the ground. To the artist's credit, the reader probably won't notice the angle either before the view zooms out.
    • In "Years of Yarncraft", when Riff plays an MMORPG, he's frustrated trying to get an item that's only dropped by female slimeblobs, which he can't tell apart from the males. It takes Torg to point out that, like all women in the game, the female slimeblobs all have the bodies of supermodels.
      Riff: In retrospect, why the hell didn't I notice that sooner?
    • In "Homeward", Riff invents a joy buzzer version of his overpowered Omnitaser Supreme, but it's a relatively large contraption and way too visible for anyone to miss it — until he paints it camo, which makes it no less visible but still, illogically, works.
    • Subverted in "The Research and Development Wars": Torg tells a story about the architect who designed the building they're now in and, due to having made its core into some kind of an inescapable Möbius strip shape was trapped there forever. Zoë asks where he is now if that's the case. Torg points to a skeleton sitting right next to her. She states that she "totally thought he was part of [their] team" — which while she was away had come to actually include a vampire and a zombie head on a stick.
  • Grymm and Creepknight from Voodoo Walrus make a bad habit of this when it comes to not noticing that they're being tailed by ninjas or various henchmen looking to ruin their day. Everyone but Mirth seem to be susceptible to this when it comes to the strange spooky yet cute creatures that regularly pop up in places without any explanation at all.
  • This is the only possible explanation for why Kurassa could have failed to notice the dragon he's walking on in Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic. Though in this one case, it leans into That's No Moon!.

    Web Original 
  • A photo seen on the internet, captioned "43rd Annual Ninja parade" — showing an empty street, of course.
  • During Achievement Hunter's Let's Play Minecraft series, it's not uncommon to have one of the guys totally spaz out and forget where something went.
    • One of their largest instances of this was in the very first episode. After losing their original house (as everyone had died since building it) Ray set out to build a replacement house, walking past the original house and starting construction of the new house about 6 feet away.
    • Among these were Geoff not realizing he turned his blocks of wood into sticks and Jack diving down a hole in an attempt to ambush Gavin.
    • Probably the longest case of this involves a picture of two guys performing karate. Back in episode 15, Michael had heard Ray making stereotypical karate noises and told him to shut up. Flash forward to episode 28 when Michael finally discovers it and exclaims "How long have we had this?!"
  • Cartoon Drive Thru: Deadly Space Action!: At one point Lemarion misses a sign the size of a moon.
  • Freddiew's Lightbulb Assassin features a particularly egregious case of a security guard unable to notice the man shooting out lights from 2 feet behind him. See it here.
  • Played for Laughs in the last moments of The Music Video Show's 75th episode
  • In Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions, Sparadrap returns to a location he visited before and fails to notice an unnaturally large tree appearing in it since last time until someone else points it out.
  • In this War Thunder video, a player somehow manages to miss a T95, a 14-foot wide 100-ton superheavy tank, sitting right in the middle of the street (and taking up most of it) in broad daylight.
  • Not Always Right:
    • This guy stopped at a cultural heritage event to rant about Mexican immigrants. The event in question? The Scottish Highland Games.
    • This customer complains about what happened at the drive-thru but misses one crucial detail.
  • This Not Always Friendly entry has the world's dumbest carjacker realize that a stopped car by the side of a road probably wasn't a good target after all.
    My car is broken down, genius! You just carjacked a dead lemon!
    • This fruit fanatic failed to notice they were allergic to bananas until they mentioned the sour, burning sensation they loved to their friends.
  • Many people featured on Retsupurae make it painfully obvious that their videos were directly uploaded to YouTube without them going over it first (that or just having extremely low standards).
  • Spoiler Warning:
    • During the Let's Play of Fallout 3, Shamus admits to having completely missed Liberty Prime until the big battle in during his first play-through, despite having passed through the room it's stored in several times during the course of the play-through. Liberty Prime is a 50-feet-tall Humongous Mecha.
    • This is the same man who only discovered that a new sofa had been delivered and was in the next room after seeing a tweet from his wife.
  • Team Four Star:
    • Lampshadeed this during their Let's Play of Halo: Reach when a giant Covenant capitol ship destroys a human ship idly floating below it.
    "Sorry, guys, I thought the planet had a ceiling for a minute!"
    • There are countless instances of them making a mistake during a playthrough because they neglected to pay attention to very obvious details. They have also acknowledged the frequency with which their viewers will call them idiots for it in the comments of any given video.
  • Used as a plot point in To Boldly Flee, where the fact that nobody notices continuity errors or the fact that Linkara has quite obviously been replaced by his evil robot counterpart are due to an in-universe plot hole sucking up continuity and sense like the black hole it resembles.
  • YouTube:
  • The Game Grumps often struggle a lot more with video games than they should not because they're bad at said games, but because they miss crucial Plot Points and instructions any normal gamer would see because they're somewhat distracted trying to put on a show and be entertaining to their own audience. This is lampshaded countless times during the course of their show.
  • Louder With Crowder has a very odd meta-example where he has an episode making fun of a girl in a video for being fat. At one point her video shows her eating a donut with mini Reeses peanut butter cups on it. For some reason he repeatedly refers to said donut as a "Skittle covered donut" even though Reese's peanut butter cups aren't Skittles. Most oddly, he refers to it as covered in skittles even when the picture showing the donut is on the screen, and correctly calls it a Reeses peanut butter cup donut a couple times, making you wonder why neither the editor nor anyone else seemed to notice.

    Real Life 
  • The vast majority of humans can only pay full attention to a handful of things and our peripheral awareness also has limits. This is actually a good thing as it prevents information overload and frees up thinking power and memory capacity, but it does cause us to fail spot checks on a myriad of subtle cues, and ties into Confirmation Bias. Proper training and certain disorders can expand the aforementioned limits but they result in both positive and negative changes to the fundamental brain functions.
  • In aircraft crashes or near-crashes caused by pilot error, failing the spot check because the pilot(s) get too wrapped up in something is one of the more common causes, especially since planes are often flown on instruments only with no visual cues outside.
    • For example, one notable case had a 747 pilot focusing on his airspeed indicator because of engine problems and failing to notice his attitude indicator, right beside the instrument he was looking at indicated the plane was about to go into a diving barrel-roll.
    • In another case the Lockheed L-1011 crew were so busy debating a failed warning light that they never even noticed they were losing altitude until they plowed into the ground!.
    • Then there are pilots who miss glaringly obvious things in their pre-flight checklists: such as in Air Florida Flight 90 when the pilots, in heavy ice and snow, left their plane's engine anti-icing system off.
    • This is, incidentally, why they have checklists aircrews have to follow when flying planes. It could be said that the rules regarding this practice are "written in blood"note . The first aircrew checklists were created for the B-17 after the prototype crashed.
    • As Northwest Airlines Flight 255 would indicate, checklists alone aren't enough, as they tend to be long, and it can be fairly easy, in stressful situations, to miss whole sections. Modern checklists tend to be digital, and place-saving, thus making it much less likely to miss bits.
    • Following the L-1011 crash and other similar crashes, there's also a rule now that in any crisis or problem-solving situation, the Captain has to pick one person whose job it is to do nothing but fly the plane and watch the instruments, because they realized it's too easy for pilots to fixate on whatever they're trying to fix and lose track of the bigger picture.
  • Checklists and questions may seem annoying for surgeons, but it's all too easy to glaze over glaringly obvious things. Going double when you have just spent over an hour doing delicate work with a person's life in your hands and just want to go sit down and do anything else. A common mistake among surgeons is to leave surgical equipment inside the patient's body. This can vary from relatively harmless sponges and surgical gloves to life-threatening knife blades. These incidents are common enough that they are today considered the main form of res ipsa loquitur ("the thing speaks for itself") in modern tort law, which says "we may not be able to prove exactly how the incident happened, but no reasonable explanation leaves you not guilty, so you're still liable."
  • This is also a problem with pathologists, as sometimes they can get so focused in looking for signs of one disease that they completely miss the signs of another disease present. In one experiment, radiologists were asked to examine a picture of a liver, all of them noticed the cancerous tumor, but 83% of them failed to notice that someone drew a picture of a chimp onto the tissue.
  • There was a safety advert that featured an awareness test where the audience is told to watch a fast-paced basketball team between a team in white and a team in black to see how many passes the team in white makes. The point of the advert was to make the audience realize that if they're not paying proper attention, they could completely miss something else that they would have otherwise noticed — which could be anything from someone moonwalking across the court in a bear suit, or a pedestrian on a bicycle in the street...
  • This is how a lot of magic tricks work.
    • Derren Brown loves doing this even using the gorilla trick in a show, on quite a small stage. Also managed to replace people right in front of their eyes without them noticing by having them focus on the map and giving directions. It must be noted that Brown usually emphasizes the psychology of his 'magic tricks' rather than spectacle or sleight of hand as a way of demonstrating the interesting ways the human mind works and the strange exploits that can be performed on it. And not just similar people, he switched out people of different races and sexes. Derren Brown was able to convince someone to take money-shaped pieces of blank paper as money and walk out of the store with a $2200 gold braceletnote , asked to view a man's very expensive watch and then calmly walked away with itnote , and not only convinced a woman that the color yellow was, in fact, red but then asked to see her red car, which she was absolutely convinced someone had painted yellow.
    • A television program about this had a similar experiment where they had a person at a registration desk bend down behind the desk for a pen and a different person stands to continue the sign-in process. In the span of seconds, the subjects failed to notice the guy had different features, voice, and clothing in a few cases. Another version of this has one of the testers stop someone in the street to ask for directions. While they are talking, two men carrying a sheet of drywall rudely step in between the two, separating them for an instant, after which the conversation continues. From the opposite side, of course, you see the person who stopped to ask for directions grab the sheet and be replaced by one of the men who had been carrying it: a man wearing different clothing, of different ethnicity, and of course a different voice. Most of the unwitting subjects never notice this. In Derren's version, it's not a sheet of drywall but a huge portrait of Derren himself.
    • Penn & Teller also use this in their magic shows. One trick has them call up a volunteer on-stage and have them use a video camera to replicate close-up magic. Of course, it's all a joke on them, as Penn switches the tablecloth, the background, etc. Penn makes sure to point out how much of a spot check the audience member failed at the end, especially since he failed to notice that he's not an audience member at all, he's actually Teller.
    • In this video, most of the audience fails spot checks.
  • Wearing a helmet makes soldiers more likely to be shot because helmets block peripheral vision. Modern helmets do not actually block peripheral vision but do distort and block sound, which reduces awareness. Some helmets have a design to leave the ears open to avoid this. Wearing tactical goggles, night vision goggles or gas masks, however, does indeed block peripheral vision.
  • Military camouflage is designed specifically to encourage people to fail spot checks.
    • Think for a moment the last time you saw anything anywhere that actually looked like any of the camo patterns you see military personnel wear (other than a couch). Ditto for airplanes and even ships with camouflage painted on. The idea isn't necessarily to make the wearer look like everything else, it's to make them not look like what they are. If you are looking for a soldier, that weird pattern he is wearing might just throw you off for long enough for him to get away or find you first.
    • Military camo is also designed to disrupt the results of a spot check when looking at a group of camouflaged objects. The patterns weave randomly one into the next, making it very hard to see boundaries. When infantry or tents or ships are packed in close formation and viewed from afar, it's hard to tell if there's ten units there, or fifty. Thus, even a successful spot check typically fails to alert the spotter of the magnitude of the force they're facing.
    • The dazzle paint used on ships in WWII was intended not to make ships hard to see but to make it hard to judge the shape of the ship. This made it more difficult to determine the type of ship and its range, heading, and speed.
  • Natural camouflage works the same way.
    • You might not think an animal is specially camouflaged if you are looking at it directly, and odds are a predator won't be fooled either, but if the camouflage only stops them from being noticed for a split second out of the corner of a predator's eye(s), it's still worth it.
    • Other natural camouflage like that of the zebra seems quite easy to spot. The trick is that the Zebra's predators want to look for a single Zebra to hunt. While the whole herd is running around, the stripes make it difficult for the predators to find a single zebra to attack.
    • Works for predators too. This leopard could easily be missed until it's too late for its prey, and this tiger is likewise very difficult to spot.
  • Some less competent military commanders have been guilty of this.
    • At The American Civil War battle of Gettysburg Union, Gen. Sickles disobediently moved his corps to a new position. Sickles's new position was a better spot for his cannons... but it was also too far away from the rest of the Union army, too big to be defended by the forces he had on hand, left a much more important piece of ground unprotected, faced woods that could easily conceal large enemy forces, and was shaped in such a way that his forces had to bend into a salient. These are all things that are on the checklist, but Sickles apparently stopped after the "Good place for cannons? Yes/No" question. oopsie... This can be directly attributed to the Union defeat at the Battle of Chancellorsville, where he was in a strong position that could have turned the battle into a Union victory, but was ordered to abandon it by General Hooker, (who failed his spot check on the disposition of Lee's army) in turn exposing Sickles and his men to cannon fire from the position he had previously held. Sickles's actions at Gettysburg were more a matter of ignoring his spot check because of his previous experiences.
    • Later in the war, at the Battle of Five Forks, three of the Confederate commanders were sharing a late lunch and had no idea their troops were being attacked. Though if modern theories about the shad bake being in an acoustic shadow are correct, they didn't realize they would be taking penalties on that spot check.
  • This trope is one of the main reasons why open sights or optics are preferred for short range combat versus aperture sights. Aperture sights require that one eye stare obsessively through the hole and focus on the front sight post. This creates a huge blind spot for the user and cuts down on situational awareness.
  • This trope is often the reason that people don't notice severely problematic behavior from family, friends, roommates, bandmates, and the list goes on. Combined with the person engaging in the behavior having some ability to keep it a secret, this is the basis of the Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal trope, and can lead to people unknowingly offering what sounds like Blatant Lies (e.g. "No one in my band ever did drugs," "My daughter doesn't have sex, there's no way she could be pregnant!'' and similar) because they sincerely missed the signs they should have seen.
  • Everyone when looking for their keys, wallet, cell phone, remote, glasses, etc. Especially when actually holding it (i.e. looking for a phone while complaining to a friend about it on said phone, listening to music while looking for mp3 player playing said music, or wondering where one's glasses are while not noticing how suddenly clear everything is). More than one hilarious screencap has shown up on the internet of a person who texts their friend, telling said friend to call their phone because they can't find it. Or forgetting the blindingly obvious, such as suddenly being alarmed by thinking one has forgotten his/her keys while driving. Showcased in this Awkward Zombie strip. Polish verse Okulary (Glasses) by Julian Tuwim refers to it: "Mister Hilary runs and screams: “Where on Earth could my glasses be?” (...) Eureka! Though who would ever suppose, His glasses are on his very own nose."
  • A lot of pickpockets apply this trope physically to their advantage. As mentioned in a book on the subject, one lesson all successful pickpockets learn early in their training is that no one can truly pay attention to two things at once. One individual technique that works remarkably well is the bump-and-swipe, in which one bumps the mark while swiping his wallet. While focused on being jostled, he can't make a spot check for his wallet to notice that it's slipping out of his pocket. Unless he knows about this technique, he's also unlikely to make such a spot check immediately after being bumped, especially if the pickpocket subsequently keeps him distracted with "flustered" apologies for jostling him.
  • How many times have you spent twenty minutes looking through a laundry bin for the mate to the sock you're holding? Vinyl record collectors experience this too when browsing stores — you can notice how common a record is when you're not looking for it, then when you are, suddenly they've all vanished.
  • Sadly, this is often the cause of car accidents; spot checks are very important when driving, which is why drunk driving and texting while driving are such bad ideas.
  • Some stroke victims have a condition called unilateral neglect, where they will not be able to notice anything that goes on one side of his or her body. They still have 100% vision, hearing, feeling, but they cannot breakthrough the blindspot without being prompted. Patients with this condition will only shave half of their face, acknowledge pain from one side of their body, and only notice half of a pancake placed in front of them.
  • In school, how many times have you heard someone forgot to write their name on a paper? A common "prank" that teachers pull on their students is to have a test that requires them to do random things like unscramble a word or start doing jumping jacks. What the missing component tends to be the student failing to read the instructions, which commonly requires only for the student to read the "questions" and answer only the last.
  • You would think a train would be easy to spot from far away, given how big and loud most trains are. But even on a clear day, with no obstacles, trains are hard to see or hear, even with all their lights and horns and bells, and even harder to track. They move faster than we think something that big should be moving, and seem to speed up the closer they get. And that is why, when you are at a grade crossing, you should always assume that there might be a train coming, whether you are at a grade crossing with flashing lights, bells, and gates; and especially so at rural grade crossings marked with just a crossbuck; and this danger increases on grade crossings at curves (where trees and buildings might make seeing a train harder) and on double track lines (one train may have gone by, but there probably is another one coming on the other track within a few seconds). This trope has killed too many people and caused too much damage at railroad crossings.
  • When skiing, you risk colliding with someone if you come out of a glade onto another main trail and don't look uphill. Also on the ski slopes, beware of natural rises and dips that sometimes might not let you see a slow or stopped skier who is below the crest of that ridge. An excellent example of this is if you look at the trails off the Independence SuperChair at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado: to get back to the lift from the trails north of it, you have this point on the return run where there's a rise, then a pretty sharp drop that leads into a relatively level segment that returns you to the lift. However, it's pretty crusty at times due to it being used by skier traffic on Peak 7 as well as by cross-traffic returning to Peaks 8 and 9 from the Kensho SuperChair on Peak 6. Some of these people do take the hill very cautiously, so you have to be careful if you're a fast skier because you might not be able to see someone who has crested this last hill. To alleviate the problem, the resort designates this as a slow zone, and after Peak 6 opened in December 2013, Mountain Safety men in yellow jackets were added there.
  • When you get on a chairlift, you must move forward to the loading line immediately at the point the chair passes the waiting line, if you don't want the chair to clobber you. All too often, falls at the loading area are caused by inattentive people who either fail to judge how fast they need to move to the loading line or are distracted by talking to someone else. Falls unloading the lift are likely caused similarly by someone failing to notice that you need to have your ski or board tips facing up at an angle to hit the ramp.
  • If you are passing a snowboarder, be aware that they have a large blind spot because they ride down the hill sideways, so you need to be careful if you're on a narrow run and passing a boarder on the left while he's riding with his left foot forward, or on his right while he's going down right foot forward, because he might not be able to notice you unless you shout an audible "on your left!" or "on your right!" warning.
  • During the 2008 US presidential election, a staffer for Republican nominee John McCain's campaign tried to smear Democratic nominee Barack Obama's campaign by claiming that she was assaulted by an Obama staffer, who drew a "B" on her cheek, until it was pointed out that the "B" was backward, suggesting that she drew the "B" herself while looking in a mirror. She promptly dropped the accusation.
  • Very much present at skydiving, and that is one of the main reasons why parachutes are garishly colored and the skydivers wear colorful overalls. Collisions in free fall can cause serious injuries or even deaths, and most fatalities are due to inadvertent collisions on canopy ride. The intention of the garish coloring is to warn other skydivers of the presence of yourself, and also to individuate each skydiver. Sadly even despite these measures, accidents due to this trope do happen, and many deaths are due to CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) [erroneously pronounced as "see-fit"]: the skydiver has concentrated so well on one thing (such as making a good landing) that he has not noticed linear obstacles such as fences, power lines or lamp posts or ground obstacles and ran into them.
  • When parking your car, you better look for any "No Parking" signs or any other signs with parking restrictions if you don't want to get ticketed or towed. YouTube channel gtoger has a series of videos showing just how prevalent this trope is. The videos consist of people getting towed for illegally parking in his business's lot despite numerous "No Parking" signs on the wall.
  • Cultural differences can cause this: people from cultures where men and women dressing differently is often strictly enforced may be unable to recognize someone cross-dressing, even if it seems blatantly obvious to someone else.
  • Humans naturally tend to fail to check a 45-degree angle above their line of sight. Hiding in this spot and Invoking this trope is an actual ninja technique known as the Tanuki Gakure no Jutsu.
  • A flyer for the now-defunct American discount department store chain Caldor note  included an image of two boys happily playing Scrabble with the word "rape" spelled out on the board. Apparently, this wasn't spotted by proofreaders... and got printed in 11 million copies for the general public resulting in widespread backlash. For their part, Caldor themselves were confused as to how that could've made its way into the toy section of a weekly flyer in the first place.
  • Show of hands model-builders. How many of you have dropped a part onto the floor, and spent hours searching for it only for the part to have fallen someplace mundane? Yeah, this tends to happen a lot. Grante, it can be excusable when something as small as a 1/35note  scale lifting-eyeletnote  or a 1/350 scale note  automatic cannon falls, but when you're dealing with something like a gun barrel, or a piece of super-structure, it can get downright embarrassing. Bonus points if you've painted the part before this, and the color doesn't even match the floor.

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Video Example(s):


The Great Dust Robbery

And you call yourself detectives? Seriously?

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / FailedASpotCheck

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Main / FailedASpotCheck