Somebody else's problem
Somebody else's problem (also known as someone else's problem or SEP) is a psychological effect[original research?] where people choose to dissociate themselves from an issue that may be in critical need of recognition. Such issues may be of large concern to the population as a whole but can easily be a choice of ignorance by an individual.
Author Douglas Adams' comedic description of the condition, which he ascribes to a physical "SEP field", has helped make it a generally recognized phenomenon.[original research?] Somebody Else's Problem has been used to capture public attention on matters that may have been overlooked and has less commonly been used to identify concerns that an individual suffering symptoms of depression should ignore.[original research?] This condition has also been employed as trivial shorthand to describe factors that are "out of scope" in the current context.[not in citation given]
An SEP is something we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it's like a blind spot.
The narration then explains:
The Somebody Else's Problem field... relies on people's natural predisposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't explain. If Effrafax had painted the mountain pink and erected a cheap and simple Somebody Else’s Problem field on it, then people would have walked past the mountain, round it, even over it, and simply never have noticed that the thing was there.
References by others
Since the publication of the novel Life, the Universe and Everything, the phrase has been used by others, such as:
- Referring to a team working on a computer programming project, Alan F. Blackwell once wrote: "Many sub-goals can be deferred to the degree that they become what is known amongst professional programmers as an 'S.E.P.' – somebody else's problem."[original research?]
- Christopher Negus, writing on the origin of Unix at Bell Labs in the 1970s, described Bell Labs at the time as "a think tank where ideas came first and profits were somebody else's problem".[original research?]
- Adams' description of an SEP field is quoted in an article of "psychological invisibility", where it is compared to other fictional effects such as the perception filter in Doctor Who, as well as cognitive biases such as inattentional blindness and change blindness.
- "INFORMS Miami 2001 Annual Meeting – TB18.2 Minisum Location with Closest Euclidean Distances". Retrieved 2008-06-07.
- Blackwell, Alan F.; Arnold, H.L. (January 1997). "Simulating a Software Project: The PoP Guns go to War". Proceedings of the 9th Annual Meeting of the Psychology of Programming Interest Group: 53&ndash, 60. Archived from the original on 2008-10-25. Retrieved 2015-03-24.
- Negus, Christopher (2006-05-10). "Linux's roots in Unix (part 1, chapter 1, section 3)". Fedora 5 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Bible. Bible (Book 327). New York: Wiley. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-4717-5491-6. OCLC 69746564. Archived from the original on 2013-12-13. Retrieved 2015-03-25 – via TechTarget.
- Sight unseen, Catherine Schulz, The New Yorker, April 13, 2015