The Tunnel Vision Trap


So you signed up for an escape room with friends or co-workers to strengthen those relational bonds, flex your team morale, and overall boost everyone’s endorphins, awesome! Before you get locked in though, be wary of this common trap that can ensnare individuals during their mission against the clock. We’ve seen it happen to many a team, but not you by the end of this blog, dear reader, not you. 

Tunnel Vision

Under the stress of a looming countdown clock and the fate of your team, you might experience the psychological phenomenon known as tunnel vision. In the pursuit of accomplishing a goal (or puzzle in this case), we can become so focused in on one task that we fail to notice important details that can help us. For example, if you work in a kitchen, you might be so focused on your goal of dicing 100 onions that you hurriedly chop away, but don’t notice that your blade is dull and working against you (*commence real, not onion-induced tears*). Tunnel vision makes you blind to the opportunities around you, and in an escape room you may be so narrowly focused that you don’t even hear the helpful clues your teammates are shouting out. Rather than making progress, you stay stuck!

No One is Safe

In our day-to-day, we experience tunnel vision through our use of smartphones. Our mind and eyes become accustomed to narrowing our perception to a phone screen, and it diminishes our perception of the environment. One study performed on teenagers found that the participants did not perceive almost half of the visual cues provided while walking and texting at the same time. And surely you’ve seen the memes of people on their phones walking telephone poles (Of course I, also, did not laugh hypocritically at said memes). Another study found that when our vision gets narrowed, all our other senses suffer too. Tunneled vision leads to diminished hearing, as if one wasn’t bad enough. 

Until Now

The kryptonite to tunnel vision is situational awareness. You can cultivate situational awareness by becoming more mindful, and not going into autopilot one-track mind mode when faced with challenges. A great detective is constantly observing the environment, rather than simply seeing. So enter the escape room with the mind of a detective, and take your time observing before jumping into solve mode. And because I’m feeling generous, here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Master observation. Start training your mind to observe your environment using multiple sensory modes, not just vision. Clues might be available through what you hear, feel, smell even!
  • Make sense out of the observation. Once you notice something interesting, start to formulate multiple hypotheses. Think before you act. Try to think of multiple ways a puzzle could be solved before diving in, and also ponder whether the task at hand is connected to other puzzles around the room.
  • Continually assess the situation. If it looks like the path you’ve chosen isn’t getting the right results, be able to step back and ask yourself questions such as what could possibly be missing? Who can I ask for help? Could this be part of something bigger?

In Conclusion

Don’t fall prey to the tunnel vision trap, and unlock your inner guru who remains acutely aware of their surroundings, even under pressure. Train your mind to see what you need to see, not just what’s in front of you. Manage your stress effectively so your vision isn’t blocked. And pick a kickass escape to test it all out!