Failed a Spot Check

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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. 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 Somebody Else's Problem (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.

The name comes from a running gag in the webcomic The Order of the Stick, which is itself based on a mechanic from Dungeons & Dragons, where a character's success on various tasks is determined by a die roll added to their ability modifier and relevant skill ranks. 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. 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. 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 (however, there is the possibility that there was nothing to find anyways). 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 doesn't necessarily imply that the character is stupid; they just aren't noticing an important "something". In a role-playing setting, players who fail their spot checks badly enough may even 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 Plot Induced Stupidity. 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.

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

If the author does this, you may see Rouge Angles of Satin.

Examples of Failed a Spot Check include:


Anime and Manga

  • In an episode of Full Metal Panic!? Fumoffu, Sagara defuses a Hostage Situation by taking the hostage-taker's little brother hostage and somehow tying him up in the rafters of the warehouse without anyone noticing. The kid was also in on the plot, however, which makes it slightly more plausible.
This actually makes some form of sense in context; Sagara's ability to move silently at extremely high speed is specifically noted by at least one character to be amazing. He defuses a situation between Mao and Weber when he's still a recruit by casually crossing at least three metres of space without a sound and without being noticed until he sticks the butt of his rifle between them from about two feet away.
  • During the Chunin Exam Finals arc of the Naruto anime, an ANBU Black Op patrolling the forest around the stadium senses a presence and halts, only to brush it off as probably nothing. While no enemy ninja were technically visible in that shot, the following shot displayed an entire squadron of ninja standing next to trees and various shrubbery. Not behind the trees and shrubbery, but next to them.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima
    • You have to feel a little bad for Chisame as the only student in a class of 31 girls to really notice and find unusual the fact that one of her classmates is a robot with mechanical joints and antennae for ears. Or that Kaede and Mana look way too old to be middleschoolers and the twins look like kindergarteners. Asuna and Negi don't actually notice Chachamaru until she starts flying using her jetboots. Lampshaded, of course.
    • The presence of the huge occidental dragon in the underground of Mahora gets missed twice—until it literally drool on someone's head.
    • Natsumi later gets an artifact that, as long as she wears it, causes this. She can walk right past the Big Bad and, as long as she wears it and doesn't touch him, he fails the spot check.
  • Yamamoto from Katekyo Hitman Reborn lives this trope. Despite fighting in numerous life-or-death battles, seeing himself and his friends be horribly injured, going through extreme training just to ensure his own survival, traveling through time, and finding out that in the future his dad is murdered by his enemies he STILL thinks all his numerous adventures are just part of an elaborate LARP. This isn't due to lack of intelligence (he's actually one of the smarter guys in the family) but seems to be either a defense mechanism which allows him to maintain his sunny disposition no matter what, or just his way of downplaying the seriousness of the situations at hand. One thing's for sure; he is damn committed to this "mafia role-playing game". Well, in the manga he reveals that he's known all along that it was real, and that it was all an act.
  • Code Geass has this done by a Knight of the Round, Luciano Bradley. As he has Lelouch tied up and is about to kill him, Kallen (in the new suped-up Guren SEITEN Eight Elements) wipes out his command and starts to fight him. Luciano laughs cockily throughout, not noticing that Kallen is smashing his weapons one by one. It's only after Kallen grabs his Knightmare by the head and turns on the radiant wave surger that he finally realizes how screwed he is, and by then it's too late. Arguably, however, Luciano knew full well his weapons were getting trashed; his strategy seemed to hinge on getting close enough to use his spiked Slash Harken at a range she couldn't dodge... except she blocked it.
  • Keroro Gunsou
    • Dororo often winds up on the other end of this, as his friends tend to not notice his presence or forget about him. In the anime, this often sets off his Trauma Switch. The only exception to this is Koyuki; the only time she failed to notice his presence was when she was temporarily Brought Down to Normal at one point.
    • His Unknown Rival Zoruru takes this Up to Eleven. Everyone fails their spot checks when it comes to the half-metal cyborg assassin with red and black eyes, for some reason. One chapter ramped this up by having the readers potentially fail their spot check: after Dororo leaves for a bit of waterfall training with Koyuki, we're shown a typical Keroro Platoon meeting... with Zoruru sitting in Dororo's usual seat.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, when Judai is trying to return to Duel Academy, he somehow fails to notice a sign pointing the way, and the fact the buildings are visible.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh vanilla, when Kaiba and Mokuba are setting up to blow up Duel Tower / Alcatraz, with 25 minutes to go, Mokuba comments that he hopes "the rest of the gang" (his friends, their employees, and everyone else) already left. A video screen right in front of him shows the blimp they came on, and at the time, "the rest of the gang"'s only means of transportation, has not moved from its spot.
    • Possibly better defined as "Failed a Listen Check", in episode 40 of Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS, the Rush Duel Club is discussing a rumor that Gohan Corp has released Maximum Monster cards to the public, an odd decision, as this would be support for Rush Duels, which they aren’t fond of:

Gavin: If Gohan released those cards, it would mean they’re okay with Rush Duels, and if there’s one thing we know about Gohan, they’re not.
Raine: Good morning to you, Mr. President!
Gavin: Oh, hello, Raine! Good morning.
Raine: I just wanted to inform you that today would be my last day on the student council, because I’m resigning!
Gavin: Sounds great! I’ll catch you later.
Luke: You sure the rumor’s not true?
Gavin: Very sure, Luke.
Yuga: Then there’s no need to worry, we -
Gavin, Luke, and Yuga, to Raine: HUH??

  • No-one in Hell Girl ever seems to notice Ren's giant, disembodied eye watching them in several episodes of the show.
  • Bleach: During the Bount Arc, Vice-captains Hisagi, Kira, Rangiku and Fifth-Seat Yumichika are sent after the Bount. Outside the hide-away caves, the vice-captains catch Yumichika admiring himself in his mirror and chastise him for dropping his guard. However, the anime shows the audience that Yumichika had both noticed the vice-captains approaching him via his mirror and that he's the only one who realised the Bount had already detected the group's arrival. Once inside the caves, the group examine many strangely designed pillars but Yumichika keeps looking off in a completely different direction to the others. Whey they're suddenly attacked from behind, Yumichika saves them all by blocking the strike. He then chastises them for having been so unobservant they'd never noticed the danger he'd been aware of all along.
    • In the manga, when Hitsugaya's Advance Guard split up to find different locations to sleep in, the only one who notices the unusual hollow reiatsu that heralds the arrival of Grimmjow's group is Yumichika. He tries to warn Ikkaku who tells him to ignore it, but he still thinks the situation is far too strange. When Grimmjow's assault begins, a panel is shown of all the shinigami reactions, and the only one not surprised is Yumichika.
  • In what's a bit of a Running Gag in Kodomo no Jikan, Aoki rarely successfully reads emotions, especially if it's those of his fellow teachers.

Comic Books

  • 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...
  • The Knights of the Round Table, Karadoc and Perceval, from the French Kaamelott TV series are rather oblivious as a general rule. In the spin-off comic book Le Serpent Géant du lac de l'Ombre ("The Giant Snake from Shadow Lake"), they however take it to a whole new level. While rowing on the title lake in search of the eponymous giant snake, a huge coil of said monster rises above the water behind them... and they don't notice. Then its tail strikes their boat, and they wonder if they hit a rock. Finally, a stronger tail lash capsizes their boat and sends both in the water. Their conclusion? There's no giant snake in this damn lake, they're just wasting their time.

Fan Works

  • 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.
  • PRIMARCHS lampshades this concept in one of its many homages to Final Fantasy.

Films -- Animation

Films -- Live-Action

  • A particularly Egregious example in Michael Bay's Transformers, wherein a hobbit-sized (and glaringly product-placed) Decepticon sneaks around in an incredibly obvious manner, yet somehow manages to avoid being caught by the security guards standing only a few feet away.
  • Used a lot in comedies like Hot Shots and The Naked Gun, where there's always something bizarre happening in the background and the Deadpan Snarker main characters just ignore it completely. This is apparently a Zucker-Abrahms-Zucker trademark.
  • The entire first third of Shaun of the Dead is one giant failed spot check, with the protagonists not noticing a Zombie Apocalypse unfolding around them even when they run into actual zombies -- "Hey! We're not using the "Z" word!" In particular, the long scene where a hungover Shaun goes through his morning shopping routine (which we've already seen in its "normal" form in the beginning of the movie), utterly failing to spot things like some blood in a glaringly obvious place, or actually paying for what he gets from the store.
  • Parodied in Monty Python's Life of Brian, where members of the Judean People's Front (or was it the People's Front of Judea?) hide from the Romans behind coat racks, under blankets, behind poorly constructed and non-concealing chairs, and out on the patio, only to have the Romans fail to discover them. Somehow, the Romans do find a spoon. On the second try.
  • As an artistic choice, this happens so much in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that characters can hardly be said to even exist if they are not on screen. This is actually the film maker's idea. Characters' fields of view is the same as the audience/camera's. This explains how the villain manages to sneak up on the hero in the middle of a mostly flat area for the film's final confrontation. While off screen, the hero and the audience cannot see them.
  • In Jurassic Park, a Tyrannosaurus Rex (which up until then had been heralded by the ground shaking as they approach) appears out of nowhere to save the heroes by getting into a fight with some Velociraptors at the end. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that they are now inside, and on presumably a more stable foundation; and by the fact that they are at that point too busy running for their lives to notice.
  • Batman: The Movie: The United World Council takes the cake, unable to notice the criminals' entrance or the fact each member is disappearing one by one. Note how well this works as a political commentary.
  • In The Lovely Bones Susie Salmon admitted after the fact that she didn't pay any attention to her surroundings, implying that she might have lived if she did.
  • Thomas Jefferson Geronimo III, the protagonist of Final Justice, apparently has no awareness of his surroundings, which results in his losing the suspect in his custody, being captured and nearly tortured himself, and the deaths of two innocent people.
  • The French comedy La Chèvre and its American remake (Pure Luck) have the accident-prone protagonist get robbed by a local criminal. To help him, the detective working with him takes a break from tracking down a man who the missing heiress was last seen with. He eventually tracks down the criminal at a poker game and forces him to repay the klutz. After they leave the game, they decide to get back to tracking down the supposed kidnapper. The detective takes out the man's picture and realizes he was at the poker game.
  • A number of deaths in the Final Destination series are caused by things you would think the person would notice, ie. the bathroom practically flooding with blue water, a cracked mug practically gushing vodka....
  • Lampshaded in A Perfect Getaway: "Your situational awareness kind of sucks."
  • In Alaska a search and rescue plane goes right past the bright yellow crashed plane they are specifically looking for. While the pilot is launching flares specifically to get their attention.
  • Watching The Lord of the Rings The Two Towers, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas encounter Eomer and his riders but apparently make no note of the huge plume of smoke rising to the sky until it is pointed out to them. Rather a poor showing for trained rangers and trackers.
    • As Alan Lee points out in the Design Team audio commentary of The Return of the King Extended Cut, the orcs crossing the river to Os Giliath(sp?) have great big bloody torches. And yet no soldier really notices. As a matter of fact, you were probably like this Troper and didn't notice yourself. Which makes it at least somewhat plausible...
  • In Gunslinger, the main heroine Rose and the Mayor spend one scene discussing that they were going to keep him in the town jail to protect him... not realizing that antagonist Cain is nearby, listening in. When shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel muses that "peripheral vision hadn't been invented yet."


  • 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.
    • Very much a matter of opinion there. 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.
  • 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: on his desk, out in the open.

Live-Action TV

  • In the House episode "Skin Deep", Dr. Wilson gave a patient an ultrasound and failed to notice that she doesn't have a uterus. Actually tends to be a common medical hangup among less experienced doctors (or alternatively, medical technicians and such who have worked so long everything has become routine). Generally caused by patients having a specific problem, and the doctor searching for then treating that specific problem... only to miss the cancerous growth over the heart.
  • Lily Charles of Pushing Daisies misses the fact that Chuck, her daughter who thinks she's her niece, is back from the dead despite Chuck standing right in front of her. While Lily is missing an eye, it's her right eye that's missing/blind, and in the scene in question the obstruction was to her right—so the eye that was best placed to see Chuck was actually her good eye.
  • Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers completely fails to notice that one of his guests has died as he's serving him breakfast in bed. Basil, we suspect, tends to think of most of his guests as Somebody Else's Problem.
  • For more British goodness, a blowaway priest in one Monty Python's Flying Circus episode utterly fails to notice a very large cannon pointing out of a grave at his face, just so the Bishop could get there too late to save him.
  • NCIS
    • In an episode, Gibbs comes upon the aftermath of a shootout in Mexico. Ocean on one side, desert on the other, and as soon as Gibbs dismounts there's a man with a gun behind him. I guess he was hiding behind the horse?
    • In the episode "Jurisdiction", Gibbs and DiNozzo go into a house with guns drawn and searching for bad guys, and DiNozzo calls "clear!" on a room with a CGIS agent in it that DiNozzo would have easily seen, if he'd bothered to look anywhere but straight ahead.
  • Most every novela has two people so deep in conversation that they will never notice an eavesdropper standing in plain sight, four feet away, in (but not hidden by) a doorway.
  • Wipeout 2008 has the infamous "Where's the pole?" incident (at 1:30).
  • Doctor Who
    • The Eleventh Doctor, along with River Song, had one of these in "The Time of Angels" when they failed to notice that while the Aplan race who built the catacombs had two heads, the statues they supposedly put there only had one... so all the statues were angels who had lost their wings.

River Song: How could we miss that?
The Doctor: Low level perception filter, or maybe we're thick.

    • The Eleventh Doctor again in "The Pandorica Opens". He's in ancient Britain during the time of the Roman occupation when one of the Roman soldiers who've joined his cause turns out to be Rory Williams, who had died thousands of years in the future and then was erased completely from ever having existed by a crack in the universe. The Doctor is the only person who still remembers him. He tries to approach the Doctor but the Doctor, lost in thought about the other aspects of their situation, asks him to be quiet while he tries to figure it out.

The Doctor: Oh, missing something, obvious, Rory! Something big, something right slap in front of me, I feel it.
Rory: Yeah, I think you probably are.
The Doctor: I'll get it in a minute.

    • The Ninth Doctor did this in the first episode of the New Series: he and Rose are discussing the Nestene invasion plans by the Thames, with a clear view of the London Eye, and the Doctor mentions that the Nestenes'll need an enormous transmitter. "What's it look like?" "Like a transmitter, round and massive. Smack dab in the middle of London, must be completely invisible." She has to make him turn around three times before the penny drops.
    • The Master isn't immune either. He converts 99.9999999...% of the human race into copies of himself and still fails a spot check; something which the Tenth Doctor is only too delighted to point out.

The Doctor: Six-billion pairs of eyes and you can't even spot what's in front of you.
The Master: And what's that?
Doctor: (gesturing to the guard aiming a gun at Wilfred Mott) That guard is two inches too tall. (Guard knocks the Master flat on his back)

    • The second Doctor notes that a volcano is erupting on the island he is on, but needs to have it pointed out to him that he should probably leave because a volcano is erupting on the island he is on.
    • This trope is common throughout the original series where the Doctor and/or his companions will be "concealed" so long as the villain doesn't casually glance in their direction. Which he never does of course.
    • In the first episode of the original series story "Earthshock", a pair of assassin robots dart down a corridor just before a solider turns to look. While the robots themselves are out of view, their shadows are clearly visible retreating down the passage; however, the soldier completely fails to notice despite staring straight at them.
      • That's an artifact of filming -- the corridor is supposed to be very dark, so the soldier wouldn't be able to see the shadows on the ground, but since the TV audience has to see what's going on the actual lighting level is fairly bright.
  • iCarly
    • Gibby in "iWin a Date":

Carly: We have to keep the game clean and fair.
Gibby: How would I know which one is Shannon?
Sam: Listen. There will be three girls: Girl Number 1, GIRL NUMBER 2, and Girl Number 3.
Gibby: So, which one is Shannon?
Carly: If you want TWO go on a date with Shannon, you got TWO choose carefully.
Carly & Sam: That is all you have TWO do.
Gibby: O-kaaaaay!

    • Spencer runs into the apartment excited about a girl he just met in "iThink They Kissed", and doesn't notice that the Power Trio is tied together with duct tape.
  • Happens all the time on The Amazing Race when a team walks by a clue, and their cameraman points it out for the audience.
    • Particularly good in season 17 when almost every team somehow fails to notice the cypher key covering an entire building wall.
  • One Thousand Ways to Die
    • A criminal planning to rob a jewelry store at gunpoint failed to notice that he entered the wrong store... and found himself attempting to hold up a gun shop.
    • Related is the tale of a would-be robber who tried to hold up a gun store, despite walking past a marked police cruiser sitting outside. Featured in the Darwin Awards.
  • Even Walker, Texas Ranger, has been known to miss what's right next to him.

Newspaper Comics

  • 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.
    • This also happened to Steve in another arc, where his inability to "read the room" cost him a lucrative deal with a recording producer.
  • 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.
  • Peanuts:
    • In one Sunday 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!"
    • This strip, which occurs one day before Sally is born; as many fans pointed out, even a very naive child (which Charlie Brown is not) would have noticed their own mother's belly getting bigger over several months, but Charlie Brown seemed completely oblivious.[1]
      • Happened much later when Rerun was born; neither Lucy nor Linus seemed to notice anything off about their mother.

Professional 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. As depicted in Botchamania (At approx. 7:30 mark).
    • 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. It's really bad when a commentator lampshades your error.

Tabletop Games

  • 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. Hypothetically, the first three searchers might find nothing but car keys, a single bullet, and a screwdriver, followed by other players finding (one at a time) a flamethrower, live beagle, double-barreled shotgun, suit of chainmail, safe, and cellar door in the same spot.


  • 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.
  • The Pirates of Penzance
    • 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.
  • 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.

Video Games

  • Let's just say that Metal Gear Solid's guards weren't particularly bright in the original, upgraded in The Twin Snakes and its other entries.
  • World of Warcraft
    • One quest in Hellfire Peninsula has you search for a special corpse in a marsh filled with green bubbling liquid. Many people have searched and searched, looking in every pool, checking every corner, before giving up and asking in general where the frig the stupid corpse is. Soon after that, they generally find out it's the 10-story-high ribcage and skull that you can see before you even ENTER THE AREA. Granted, people are expecting and looking for an average-sized corpse, but it's still kinda funny. The player has to be standing in one specific pool of ooze to use the quest item, or else it won't work; there are several pools surrounding the giant corpse, and using the quest item in all but one of them will return an error message.
    • This Trope is subverted in a Shadowmoon Valley quest, where the player hides in a box to eavesdrop on a conversation between Jovaan and Warbringer Razuun. Jovann does notice the box that isn't supposed to be there, but when he asked Razuun what it's for, Razuun tells him not to bother him with trifles and to focus on the mission.
  • Silent Hill 1: Harry Mason fails his spot check.
  • This tends to happen a lot to FPS heroes—enter a perfectly normal room, and BAM! Hit in the head by some random mook (the likes of which you've killed dozens of by now) who then helps himself to all your weapons. And, of course, lobbing a grenade in before entering the room never works. Doesn't help that they sometimes teleport into the room offscreen.
  • You would think that by now, Somebody would have noticed that Agent 47 Has a Barcode Tattooed to the back of his head. That would make identifying him rather easy, would it not?
  • In both Neverwinter Nights games, your Hide checks are not affected by the (sometime dazzling) light effects of buff spells (though they are affected by torches and the Light spell). And in this D&D-based game, you tend to use tons of buffs all the time. Therefore, you can frequently see a rogue who looks more like a Christmas tree sneaking unnoticed past an enemy.
  • Played with in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which has many RPG elements. Characters will notice if you are out of shape or if you are not wearing the appropriate gang colors. You can pick and choose clothes and whatever you are wearing shows up in the cut scenes. However, characters will not notice if you attend, for example, a serious business meeting in a gimp suit. Said meeting includes the character's sister. Ew.
  • Used and Mocked in Brutal Legend. The roadie unit is a large musclebound guy carrying an 8-foot stack of speakers on his back, yet he is a stealth unit... because no-one ever notices the roadies.
  • This sniper in Modern Warfare 2.
  • Mass Effect
    • Geth aren't liked at all in the Mass Effect universe. So, in the second game, when you bring along Legion, your Geth party member, to the Citadel—where security has been heightened since the events of the first game to prevent against "Geth infiltration"—someone would notice, right? WRONG.

Shepard: It's been a couple of years since I passed through here. Security seems to have tightened a bit.
C-Sec Customs: After the Geth attack, there was a review of security protocol. A few minor changes were made to reduce the risk of Geth infiltration. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Legion: Geth do not infiltrate.
C-Sec Customs: You should leave your personal synthetic assistant at home. They aren't allowed on public shuttles anymore.
Legion: Geth do not intentionally infiltrate.

Potentially justified by Refuge in Audacity. Bonus -- Legion's combat class? "Geth Infiltrator".
    • In the first game, Sheppard can try to comfort Ashley Williams, who is the last survivor of her squad which was ambushed by the Geth. She brushes him/her off, pointing out that you'd have to be pretty blind not to notice a bunch of robots with flashlights instead of heads sneaking up on you.
    • Even better is Tali's loyalty quest in the second game. If you bring Legion onto the quarian fleet, the guards are understandably edgy about it - the Geth drove their species off their homeworld, after all. The leader of the welcoming committee even threatens to shoot you both if you don't send him back to the Normandy (or you convince him otherwise). However, there is really no excuse for the court audience's horrified gasps of surprise when Admiral Gerrel loudly points out that there's a Geth in the courtroom and accuses Shepard of psychological warfare to manipulate the proceedings. Not to mention the quarian civilians' prior chatter about a Geth on the ship... with said Geth standing right next to them, drawing no reaction whatsoever.
  • In Police Quest, if you don't check your tires before driving off, you WILL end up with a flat tire. In Open Season, if you don't check the door with a stick mirror, you WILL get your throat ripped out by the guard dog. In SWAT, failing to slice the pie while entering a room = death.
  • From Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Sky, at the beginning of secret episode 4 ("Here Comes Team Charm"), sure Graveler it's an empty room with a treasure chest and three statues.
  • Pokémon in general could be seen as an example of this. For much of the game, players will be wandering around in tall grass, looking for Mons. It makes sense that some of the small bird, bug, and rodent analogues would be hidden from view. But the game progresses onward, and soon players will see "A wild Onix appeared!". How anyone could not see the 7+ meter rock-snake is beyond anyone. Also, players will randomly encounter Mons while walking in caves or surfing on water, which should be in plain view. The game always suggests that you just now noticed them.
  • Toward the end of Chapter 7 in Super Paper Mario, the heroes rush into the final room, to find Grambi (who is a little taller than Luigi) injured and Luvbi (who is the shortest person in the room) trying to see if he's OK. They apparently didn't notice the 30-foot demonic skeleton dragon standing just off-screen until he announces his presence.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
    • During the Grave Eclipse event, you can wake up an old man who will go and attempt to make tea, knock over all his furniture, and go back to bed muttering about spilling his tea. No comment on the invasion of shadow monsters from the netherworld horribly killing the screaming and panicked townspeople right outside his house.
    • All of Weyard seems to fail a spot check when Eoleo, an internationally-renowned violent criminal under a death sentence, joins your party and goes cruising the Eastern Sea with a bunch of teenagers. To be fair, in some areas the people have other things on their minds, but places like Tonfon and Yamata really should have greeted him with a squadron of guards.
  • Assassin's Creed
    • In Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood, Ezios default appearance involves wearing bright white clothes, visible weapons and armour. He can still blend into any crowd, as long as he has 3 or more people around him. Even if he killed a dozen guards seconds ago and the guards just lost sight of him for a moment.
    • At least Ezio has a half-cloak that partially covers some of his weapons. Altaïr in the first game blatantly walks around with visible weapons. All he has to do to hide is bow his head slightly and hold his hands in prayer form. Apparently, it's not uncommon for the guards to see a heavily-armed monk. (Templars were warrior monks, so it isn't exactly unheard of.)
  • In Portal 2, Wheatley, being himself, tries to figure out a way to open a door and finds himself totally dumbfounded. He fails to notice the glaringly obvious button right in front of the door.
    • In the opening sequence, he deduces that a solid concrete wall is a docking bay and attempts a "manual override" on it - smashing your hotel-room sized pod into it until one breaks. Written on said wall is an arrow with the caption "Docking Bay 500M below."
  • Baten Kaitos Origins has Sagi leading a small squad of soldiers and machina into a room, where they find two people: the Emperor they are trying to assassinate, and someone who has been having a conversation with the Emperor. Sagi tells his men to let the bystander go, apparently missing the slightly significant detail that the Emperor is dead. Way to let the killer loose there, Sagi...
  • In Team Fortress 2, to his teammates, a disguised Spy looks like he's wearing a paper mask. The enemies must be rolling a lot of ones.
    • If the 'Meet The Spy' video is to be believed, its some kind of holographic device and the enemy team is actually seeing a perfect illusion. The 'paper mask' bit is just to let his teammates know where he is.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic 2, the Czerka Corporation is on the lookout for an old employee of theirs who could rat them for their corrupt activities. They've apparently got all manner of mercenaries and bounty hunters after this guy. As it happens, he's hiding in an apartment right up the hall from their headquarters.
  • In Final Fantasy IV, and to a lesser extent the later SNES games of the series, nearly all secret passages take forms that would be completely and totally obvious from the PCs point of view, only being hidden by the fixed isometric view the player experiences.
  • In the Carmen Sandiego game "Great chase through Time", a lot of the thieves are Hidden in Plain Sight. It's easy to assume that the Good Guide spotted them right off the bat and just wanted you to figure out where they were hiding yourselves, with you failing the spot check. However, everyone in the past apparently does this too, as Julius Caesar never looks to his left to see Doctor Belljar hiding behind a pillar right next to him, The servant never looks behind him because the camel Buggs Zapper is hiding to find that the camel is a cardboard cutout, Isabella doesn't notice a chart with mysterious lands in her room, Beethoven doesn't spot the foreign instrument in the orchestra that Jacquelyn Hyde is playing, and Thomas Edison simply stands there staring at the wall without realizing that Dee Cryption is RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM hiding behind a battery.

Visual Novels

  • HF route in Fate/stay night. Nobody except Ilya, who isn't saying anything about what she knows (a surprisingly large amount) or doesn't, notices that in this continuity of FSN 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.
  • Although somewhat justified since this happens in a Bad End but in Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors, after discovering that Lotus' death had only happened recently, Junpei fails to realize the obvious and terrible reality that the killer is still there, since the floor they were on only had one entrance and exit (which was the same place) and that he just came out of the entrance. Guess what happens to him next...

Web Comics

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.
  • This strip of Once upon a Table.
  • The last panel of this Girl Genius strip.
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • When Riff from 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?

Web Original

  • During the Let's Play of Fallout 3 by Spoiler Warning, 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.
  • 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.
  • A photo seen on the internet, captioned "43rd Annual Ninja parade"—showing an empty street, of course.

Western Animation

  • Happened once in Futurama, as Bender was talking smack about Morgan; Leela and Fry were making shushing motions, and he says, "Uh oh, is she behind me?" Morgan replies with, "No, I'm in front of you!" and Bender squeaks like a mouse.
  • Happens to Darkwing Duck a lot. The best example is from "The Justice Ducks". Darkwing finds a lone crumb which—using ridiculously advanced levels of obscure knowledge and Sherlock Logic—he uses to track down Negaduck's headquarters, which has a giant flag with Negaduck's head on it.

Negaduck: I see you found the crumb. I knew you'd never notice the huge flag.

  • Kim Possible: Ron Stoppable repeatedly fails romantic spot checks in relation to himself, with Tara the cheerleader and Yori the ninja Action Girl. He failed to recognise their interest despite being kissed by them, Yori twice in one episode.
  • In the South Park episode "The Coon", Cartman poses as a superhero. When he reports his findings to the police, he "disappears" while talking to them, only to reveal that he is now on the other side of the room. They lose track of him again moments later when he moves back to his original position. Seconds after that, they once again can't find him, until he announces that he's about one foot to the left of where he had been.
  • The Powerpuff Girls fail to notice they're being followed by a tank, a bunch of Wacky Racer-esque cars, and Professor Utonium while they're searching for the MacGuffin of "The Powerpuff Girls Rule".
  • In the eighth episode of the second season of Winx Club, a monster sent to attack Red fountain is meant as a distraction while the Trix search for the codex. Realizing this, Saladin and Cordatorta bring several guards to the codex room in case the Trix find it. If any of them had looked behind them, they would've seen that Icy was following them.
  • On an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes where Jimmy is stuck flying a plane, Heloise tells him over the radio not to press the big pink button. It's right in front of him, and bigger than he is, yet he comments that he missed it.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
    • In the episode "Call of the Cutie", Apple Bloom is apparently distressed enough about being the last girl in her class to get a cutie mark that she briefly fails to notice that she's in the middle of a giant party.
    • And in "Feeling Pinkie Keen", Twilight is too busy gloating about how right she is to see the four hundred-foot-long hydra necks that are right next to her.
    • In the historical pageant from ""Hearth's Warming Eve", the three rulers of the pony races all get through speeches claiming the future land of Equestria as their new home... before realizing the other two are nearby.
      • Which is kind of a subversion when you consider scale. One was on the side of a mountain, another in the valley, and the third was on top of a cloud.
    • In "Secret of My Excess" Zekora and Twilight are so immersed into a discussion of Spike's recent cleptomania problem, that they fail to notice him stealing lireally everything from Zekora's shack.
  • In the very first episode of X-Men, Jubilee fails to notice the Sentinel hiding behind two very small trees. Because you know how easily purple and red blend in with the green of nature.
  • Used very often in young children's programming, usually to teach the kids. A better example would be Blues Clues, where the host does it, but gives off the impression that he does know it's there and is just doing it to teach the viewers. A worse example would be Dora the Explorer and Diego, who seem to legitimately not see the mountain on the horizon and come off as kind of stupid for it.
  • While it is somewhat forgivable given the nature of the show involving robots in disguise, a number of characters in the course of Transformers Generation 1 manage to fail an astounding number of spot checks. One instance which is so ludicrous as to be hilarious involves Soundwave, already a notoriously sneaky Decepticon infiltration expert and intelligence officer... managing to hide inside Ironhide while the Autobot is in vehicle mode. Soundwave spends a good amount of time next to Blaster, his Autobot counterpart, who is also in tape player mode. Neither Autobot notices Soundwave until he decides to eject Ravage... and even then, Soundwave manages to sneak away. This astounding lack of perception carries over to the commercials as well, where in an amusing inversion of the norm (with people unwittingly carrying Soundwave into a secure location), Rumble struts back into Decepticon HQ carrying a radio he found. Soundwave, being Genre Savvy and wise to his own brand of tricks, immediately deduces the nature of the radio. Rumble... is a little slower on the uptake.

Rumble: Hey, look at this radio I found!
Soundwave: Autobot intruder!
Rumble: Where?
Blaster: (transforms on Rumble's shoulder, and kicks him aside) Here!

  • In Danny Phantom, Danny runs to an alley to transform into a ghost, and he seemed to look around for bystanders, but completely (somehow), missed his sister, who was standing slightly behind him but clearly in view. He's very good at keeping up a Secret Identity that way.
  • Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?; in the first scene of the first episode of the Netflix series, an arrogant Interpol officer lectures to his novice partner how easy it will be to nab Carmen, oblivious for a minute or two of the novice's attempts to tell him she's scaling the wall right behind them. Naturally, she grabs the loot and effortlessly escapes, stealing his wallet in the process just to spite him.
  • Something of a Running Gag in some Looney Tunes shorts where the villain is looking for someone who is right next to him. For example, Elmer Fudd might be hunting for Bugs Bunny, thinking he has the drop on by pointing his gun down a burrow, Bugs comes out of another burrow, greets him (with a "What's up Doc?") and asks what he's doing. Elmer will say he's looking for a rabbit, causing Bugs to shrug (or make a snarky look towards the viewer) and walk away, saying he'll let him know if he sees one. Most of the time, though, Elmer catches on eventually.
  • From the Helluva Boss episode "MAMMON'S MAGNIFICENT MUSICAL MID-SEASON SPECIAL (ft Fizzarolli)"; the song "2 Minutes' Notice" performed by Fizzarolli is "The Villain Sucks" Song aimed at his evil boss, Mammon. Despite the lyrics, Mammon himself seem completely unaware that the song is about him; he actually enjoys the performance even when Asmodeus clues him in on who Fizz is talking about. It isn't until Fizz calls him a "sad sack of shit" that is sinks in.

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. 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 an 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". That is to say, lessons learned from the mistakes of those who died, not to be confused with those who Couldn't Find a Pen.
    • 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.
  • Drivers who pay more attention to GPS than the road sometimes do silly and dangerous things like stopping on railroad crossing… and at least one drove turned onto the railroad and drove on the tracks for a while.
  • Similar in surgeries—ask any surgeon who's been in the game long enough if they've left something in somebody or known somebody who has. Checklists and questions may seem annoying or unnecessary but its 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 now are almost finished and just want to go sit down and do anything else.
  • Turns out that if you have people watch a tape of a fast-paced basketball game, and you tell them to count the number of passes, they can get so distracted they fail to notice someone moonwalking across the court in a bear suit. (The researchers who determined this won an Ig Nobel Prize.)
  • In a similar vein, a study comparing people who consider themselves "lucky" vs. "unlucky" found that "unlucky" people were far more likely when being told to count the photos in a newspaper to miss the message taking up half of page two, "stop counting, there are 34 images".
    • Or, you know, ignore it because they think it's a lie. Which they would think very probable because they're unlucky like that.
    • If they were told to count the images instead of simply being asked how many there were, then it could also be that they're simply good at following directions rather being "unlucky". The problem with these kinds of experiments is that they tell you what people do rather than why they do it.
    • The other problem is that since most people don't bother to read the entirety of the study, they end up making assumptions as to what the researchers were doing and just quoting the big title at the start of the paper. Which itself has been the topic of several studies, incidentally.
  • Pretty much 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.
    • That last part? That was a replication of a real psychological experiment. It got the same results.
      • Derren Brown had a TV special specifically devoted to this. In it, he 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 bracelet,[2] asked to view a man's very expensive watch and then calmly walked away with it,[3] 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.
    • Penn and 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.
  • 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.
    • Natural camouflage works the same way. You might not think an animal is especially 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.
    • 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.
    • This is why zebras have stripes.
  • Some less competent military commanders have been guilty of this.
    • In The American Revolution, General George Washington lost two battles (Brooklyn Heights and Brandywine) because he and his division commanders did not check their ground for gaps, passes, fords, and other weak spots, despite being encamped in the area for days before the fight. In both battles the British were able to break through the US Army before they even fired a shot. A fine man Washington, but he could be sloppy at times.
    • At The American Civil War battle of Gettysburg Union, Gen. Sickles disobediently moved his corps to a new position. Sickle'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...
  • Girl falls into fountain while texting.
  • Everyone when looking for their keys.
    • Or wallet, or cell phone, or remote, or glasses, or...
      • Actually justifiable in the case of glasses when they're not on your head.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • A recent NFL example: 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 takes off up the field, moving towards the left sideline and every player on the field follows him to block/block for 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • When playing dodgeball even a small, weak player can get the strong ones out by tossing a ball while they're throwing.
  • Texting guy almost runs into a bear
  • A Chinese False-Flag Operation to discredit the 2019 Hong Kong protests by staging a violent incident was exposed when a press conference supposedly filmed after the attack on the same day had an actor with a wristwatch set to several hours before the attack, exposing it as prerecorded (mentioned e.g. here).
  • Right after the 2002 Bali Bombings in Bali, Indonesia, investigators struggled to find a lead as to who perpetrated the attacks, even when top forensic investigators were on site to scour for clues–cultural factors also came into play as Islamic custom dictates that deceased Muslims should be buried within 24 hours, hampering autopsy efforts–and the only other lead they had was a white minivan used to carry out the bombing, which had the serial numbers literally filed off. What the terrorists forgot to file off however was the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number used to identify nearly every cellphone on the planet,[4] which was retrieved intact from the remains of an old Nokia 5110 used as a remote detonation device. Through this, Australian intelligence agencies were able to trace the origins of the call and thus unravel the terrorist group responsible.
  1. Likely a case of Society Marches On; children in fiction at the time never seemed to notice this.
  2. he later returned it, almost thirty minutes later, at which point he had to point out that the money was fake
  3. the man watched him go for about a minute before realizing something was wrong
  4. CDMA phones on the other hand use ESN and MEID numbers instead, though dual-mode phones such as those sold in the States do carry both IMEI and MEIDs.