Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Invisible Gorilla by Chabris and Simons

UK edition, published by Harper
The invisible gorilla and other ways ourintuition deceives us, by psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, is a wonderful book that contains a lot of food for thought for scientists – and actually for everybody

There is little chance that you missed this viral video, dating back from just before the turn of the millennium: two teams, dressed either in white or in black, play basketball, and you are supposed to count how many passes the white team manages to do. If you never saw that, watch it here before reading. OK, that was the one and only spoiler alert!

In the middle of the video, a student wearing a gorilla suit walks through the players, thumps her chest, and leaves. I didn’t see the gorilla, just as half of the people who watch the video, because I was too focused on counting the white team passes. With this video, Chabris and Simons showed us that we wrongly take certain things for granted, such as our ability to notice everything that enters our field of view. They write in their introduction (p. ix):

“We all believe that we are capable of seeing what’s in front of us, of accurately remembering important events from our past, of understanding the limits of our knowledge, of properly determining cause and effect. But these intuitive beliefs are often mistaken ones that mask critically important limitations on our cognitive abilities.”