Inattentional blindness – see the gorilla!


Inattentional Blindness got a lot of media attention last year. It’s the idea that if we lack an internal frame of reference for something it is more than just confusing, our brain actually refuses to even see it. In other words, if you aren’t expecting to see something, you literally won’t see it even if it’s right in front of you.

In the original experiment, people were shown a video of people passing a basketball back and forth and told to count the number of passes. In the middle of the video, a person in a gorilla costume stepped to the middle of the screen faced the camera and then left. After watching the video, the participants were asked if they saw anything unusual and 50%(!!!) of the people did not report the gorilla!

Think about that, half the people didn’t notice a person in a gorilla suit. Everyone I’ve talked to about this says that, of course, they would have seen the gorilla. But, aren’t there obvious things we all miss all the time?

Sometimes, an idea or solution is standing right in front of you, but no one is seeing it. What if you, when faced with a problem, train yourself to look for the gorilla.

If everyone is focussed on the top of a problem, look at the bottom. Look for the gorilla! In fact, if everyone could see the gorilla, you wouldn’t need to be there.

If you know there’s a gorilla wandering around and you can’t see it, call someone else in to look for it. Remember half the people couldn’t see it in the experiment, finding someone with a different perspective might make it more visible.

Isn’t a new idea just a gorilla that no one has seen before?

2 responses

  1. I want this entry to be written such that I can try the experiment myself and not be spoiled–so no picture of a gorilla and just tell me you’re conducting a test and I need to count the number of times the basketball is passed. Then tell me the results. I’m currently conducting this experiment on my coworkers but I messed up the first two runs by forgetting to give them the task of counting the basketball tosses. Still 2/3 didn’t notice the gorilla until it beat it’s chest.


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