Target Fixation

by anil on December 24, 2007

A few weeks ago, I was driving [my brand new car] to the University of Kerala Kariavatom campus for a meeting. It was a nice evening. I enjoyed that drive through the highway and I reached the campus pretty quickly. I entered the main gate and I drove slowly towards the Department of Computer Science. I had to go around an island at an intersection. I well kept my side and was moving dead slow.

Suddenly a motorcycle entered the intersection from my left side. Though it was real quick, I wasn’t surprised as there was ample room for him to pass me. But what surprised me that, he rode straight to me and hit my car head on and fell down!

Heck! Was he mad? Did he try to commit suicide or something? What has just happened here?


There is a phenomenon called “Target Fixation.” It helps you most of the time when you drive/ride any kind of vehicle. But it if you don’t know how it works, it can hurt you; just like what happened above. Read on.

Wikipedea defines Target Fixation as:

Target fixation is a process by which the brain is focused so intently on an observed object that awareness of other obstacles or hazards can diminish. Also, in an avoidance scenario, the observer can become so fixated on the target that the observer will end up colliding with the object.

In practice, while riding a motorcycle if you find something on the way and if you panic, you forget about the rest and fix your mind on that object. Once you does this, your body steers the motorcycle (or any vehicle for that matter) straight to the object. There is no law of Physics governing this; it’s a plain and simple psychological phenomenon.

I am sure that you have noticed Target Fixation in action while trying you avoid a pothole or an oil patch in the road. If you fixate it, you will run over that object for sure.

This explains what has happened the other day at the University campus. I hope that that rider will read this post some day
and drop me an email.

Now you know what Target Fixation is. You can use it positively, indeed. Simply take your eyes away from the object which you want to avoid and look at the direction you want to take (in order to avoid that object). This helps you especially when you handle a skidding or when a dog or pedestrian runs across your way, unexpectedly.

This is easier said that done; especially when you are scared (yet another psychological phenomenon which makes you take wrong decisions most of the time). It needs conscious effort in most cases. Then it will become natural to you (through practice).

Once you know the existence of such a danger, you can learn more about it. Learn how to reduce its influence and to utilise it positively.

Safe riding.

PS: Today happened to be the first anniversary of my first real motorcycle accident. It is an interesting coincidence that I wrote something on motorcycle safety on the same day.


Oh HO !!! Anything happened to You/Car? what happened to that fellow after that. Did u speak to him !!!1

by KIRAN on December 24, 2007 at 10:12 pm. #

[…] Target Fixation: S'thing every motorcylist should know about […]

by Read This Link » Target Fixation: S'thing every motorcylist should know about on January 10, 2010 at 12:08 am. #

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