Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Focused. Yes, I have been focused. I have been so damned focused – and also still taking fistfuls of meds – that I frequently have a feeling that the undefined is passing me by, unknown entities materialize sight-unseen without me knowing anything about them except some Ballad-Of-A-Thin-Man suspicions. But then our pals at Delancey place clued me in on the invisible gorilla, and I released the focus was to blame…

"Intense focusing on a task can make people effectively blind, even to stimuli that normally attract attention. The most dramatic demonstration was offered by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons in their book The Invisible Gorilla. They constructed a short film of two teams passing basketballs, one team wearing white shirts, the other wearing black. The viewers of the film are instructed to count the number of passes made by the white team, ignoring the black players. This task is difficult and completely absorbing. Halfway through the video, a woman wearing a gorilla suit appears, crosses the court, thumps her chest, and moves on. The gorilla is in view for 9 seconds.
"Many thousands of people have seen the video, and about half of them do not notice anything unusual. It is the counting task-and especially the instruction to ignore one of the teams-that causes the blindness. No one who watches the video without that task would miss the gorilla. Seeing and orienting are automatic functions of System 1, but they depend on the allocation of some attention to the relevant stimulus. The authors note that the most remarkable observation of their study is that people find its results very surprising. Indeed, the viewers who fail to see the gorilla are initially sure that it was not there - they cannot imagine missing such a striking event. The gorilla study illustrates two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness. – Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

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seeformiles said...

Ah - back in the saddle once more Mr Farren - Yee-Hah!

Mike said...

Not true. If the Gorilla moves slowly, maybe no-one will see it. Because they literally do not see it. The eye focusses on only a small part of the picture. If told to concentrate on that part and not distracted by movement elsewhere, the gorilla is literally not seen.