The Invisible Gorilla (And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us) by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons is an eye-opener, revealing the many ways our brains mislead us every day. It is also an extremely entertaining venture into intellectual though enjoyable territory – in this instance, a look at our brain’s blind spots.
The authors are Nobel prize winning cognitive scientists, and there is a chance that this book will help us see ourselves for what we are, warts and all, and probably motivated enough to steer our way out of troubles in life.
It is one of the most famous psychological demos ever: Subjects are shown a video, about a minute long, of two teams, one in white shirts, the other in black shirts, moving around and passing basketballs to one another. They are asked to count the number of aerial and bounce passes made by the team wearing white, a seemingly simple task. Halfway through the video, a woman wearing a full-body gorilla suit walks slowly to the middle of the screen, pounds her chest, and then walks out of the frame. If you are just watching the video, it is the most obvious thing in the world. But when asked to count the passes, about half the people did not notice the gorilla at all!
This experiment points out to the zero-sum nature of attention, where when you direct your mental spot-light to the basketball passes, it leaves the rest of the world in darkness. Even when you are looking straight at the gorilla you don’t see it because it is not what you are looking for. The problem here is that we are often unaware of such limitations, and we think we are seeing the world as it really is.
The authors examine several other illusions about perception, memory, knowledge and ability. In the case of memory, for instance, over a period of time, an event gets conditioned by our beliefs, desires and interests, and we forget the real event, only remembering the story we told.
The Invisible Gorilla
By Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons