One of the things that seriously complicates any discussion like this is the fact that after an attack, particularly one in which the victim cooperated, the victim often has a significant
ego investment in believing that there was nothing else he could do other than cooperate. By necessity, most crime survivors who cooperate with their attackers are very adamant about that, but this belief may not always be congruent with physical reality. That's not to say crime victims lie about their encounters, but the human ego strongly protects itself. For many people, the only way they can live with the memory of the crime and their cooperation with it, is to cling tenaciously to their own powerlessness. To support or enable that belief is often (not always) to support a lie. But it's the kind and compassionate thing to do anyway.
On the flip side, and equally difficult from a discussion standpoint, nobody in the world is capable of a ruthlessly accurate assessment of their own capabilities and alertness status. Some come closer than others, but they're rarely the people who believe
themselves to be fully self-aware (see http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf
for a discussion of how & why that might be true). Whenever someone opines, "Nobody would ever catch me
off-guard," it's a 100% certainty that the person who is talking is nowhere near as alert as they think they are.
This isn't rhetoric, either. It's simply the truth. As a human animal, you are blind and inattentive a lot of the time, and you simply do not recognize that fact because -- well, because you're blind a lot of the time. It's simply the way you're wired.
A lot of us in the firearms world are passingly familiar with the phrases "tunnel vision" and "auditory exclusion." We tend to think of these phenomena as if they are solely the product of adrenal stress. That's not true.
for a great discussion of that.) Tunnel vision is a variant of a phenomena sometimes called "inattentional blindness", "sustained inattentional blindness", or "change blindness." These are all separate but closely-related ways to describe some specific failures in how the human brain perceives and stores information. Generally speaking, the most intensely we focus upon a task, or the more difficult the task becomes, the less we observe about the world around us.
Incidentally, it's why magicians are able to work their magic. A skilled sleight of hand performer takes advantage of these known weaknesses in human perception -- in fact, he often walks right through them. Repeatedly.
Sometimes this blindness can be quite striking, and even humorous. A few years back, some researchers won an Ig Nobel Prize
for their study, "Gorillas in Our Midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events." The authors ingeniously demonstrated that when we pay attention to something, it's all too easy to overlook other events happening right in front of us -- even a woman in a gorilla suit. Standing right in the middle of a screen at which the subject is directly focused upon. And remaining there for five full seconds while the subject continues to focus on the screen. And beating her upper chest before walking off the screen. Utterly invisible
to roughly half the very attentive and focused observers ...
(Oh, yeah, I know. Everyone reading this would be in the other
The people in that study weren't unusual in any way. They were normal.
Just as the posters in this thread are all normal. Guys, you can
be taken by surprise. If you are determined to be tactical and safe, you owe it to yourself to have a plan to cope with situations where you ARE taken off guard, where you ARE suprised by an unanticipated event, where you AREN'T ahead of the game and magically in control of all circumstances. Because quite frankly, failing to be prepared to cope with this reality is living in a fantasy world.