The Invisible Gorilla

Continuing last week’s post…

Psychologists specialising in Cognitive Vision have been studying the phenomenon of change blindness for quite some time. They wonder how we cannot perceive changes in our environment when they take place but these changes seem really obvious when they are pointed out.

This phenomenon poses some very interesting questions, like how much of what we see do we actually process and become aware of? Some studies argue that instead of storing information about the world in our memory we use the world itself as an external memory source. In a continuous shot like ‘Whodunnit’ we do not expect unmotivated changes. Therefore we do not take any notice of them. Our understanding of the observed world is that such changes cannot logically occur. Would it have been a different case if I asked you to notice all the changes Before showing you the clip? Maybe, but even then, some of those changes would have been omitted because they were not expected.

There is also the element of ‘distraction’, in the case of ‘Whodunnit’ this is the story itself. The Detective talks to us directly about a murder. He asks us to find the killer and therefore we concentrate on what the suspects say and how they behave. Our focus is on the confessions.

When we fail to notice a stimulus that is right in front of us we experience what psychologists named ‘inattentional or perceptual blindness’. Our attention cannot be focused on everything at once. Apparently this happens because we are overloaded with ‘inputs’ and it is impossible to pay attention to all of them.

Try to do this fun test:

This clip is based on an older experiment conducted by Simons and Chabris at Harvard University in 1999. They made a short video that showed two basketball teams, one dressed in white, one in black. Then they gave their viewers the task to count the number of passes between the players dressed in white. In the original clip a guy dressed in a gorilla suit walked through the players punching his chest. Half of the subjects watching the clip didn’t see the gorilla! They were concentrating on the given task counting the number of passes.

Apparently this has become one of the most well-known experiments in psychology. It reveals that we are missing a lot of what happens around us. We don’t necessarily perceive something we see if we don’t pay any attention to it. At least in our day-to-day lives the advantage is that we don’t even know we are missing so much!

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3 Responses to The Invisible Gorilla

  1. sannekurz says:

    Shame BOTH my kids new this… 😛 that’s what happend if children grow up surrounded by film makers! 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Faces On Our Screens | Tales from the Scripty

  3. helpamira says:

    I’ll do this! What a great little test – and I wonder, if people with certain disorders will more likely see the gorilla…such as people with concentration problems or trouble to focus…
    Thanks for sharing!

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