Who Put That Gorilla There?


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I love everything about psychology. The study of how people function, think, and develop throughout life interests me beyond belief. One particular concept in psychology that I find fascinating is inattentional blindness. This is the idea that humans are actually unable to notice crucial changes in scenes, or the movements or changes of an object in their visual field, because their attention is focused on another task. I know some people are reading this thinking, "Well, duh? How can you notice a minor change in your visual field if you're focused on something else?" I agree. However, these are not always subtle. Read more!

I never knew about this term until taking PSYCH 100 with Dr. Love. One day in lecture, he divided the room into sections. Half of us were assigned "white" and the other, "black". He then put up a video on the projector and instructed us to focus on the individuals wearing the colors we were assigned for the entire video. Give it a try and see what you find!

If you focused on the individuals in white, you were probably able to count the total number of passes made. However, you may have failed to notice a significant change in the scene. If this is the case, try it again! This time, focus on the individuals in black.

Now you see what I'm saying! I was stunned when first taking part in this "test". How could I have possibly missed that?! Well, according to Arien Mack and Irvin Rock, the two psychologists who discovered the instance, many people become "blind" of what is right in their visual field when participating in another task.

gorilla3.jpg

After learning about this, I was absolutely shocked. Although it is somewhat inevitable, I am now worried I'm missing out on so many changes throughout my day! What if I overlook my "Prince Charming" on horseback riding down Pollock Road because I'm too busy watching the Willard Preacher go on tangents?

Here is another test, try it out!

-JT

3 Comments

I remember this from class! And I actually fell for it. Before taking the cognitive psychology course where I was exposed to this exercise, I had never realized that this could be possible. Knowing this has made me more aware of my surroundings and open to the possibility that maybe I am not as observant as I thought I was, and that it is possible to miss details (or huge gorillas running around right in front of me). I have also heard that this has been used in court to go against witness testimonies. It is not that they lie, but there is always the possibility that they missed seeing something. I thought this was an interesting piece of information worth knowing for life in general.

When I was a Freshman, we had the same experiment performed on us where the Gorilla is dancing, and there is abunch of people playing basketball. Appearently, this is mostly about where one put their attention to the most instead of being more aware of their environment. There was another experiment the professor performed that day and that's when he decided to walk out of the classroom during the time we were watching the gorillas, and come back with another shirt on to continue lecturing. In the end, he asked if anyone had seen him change his shirt.

I also remember this experiment from that class last semester! I was in the black group so I noticed the gorilla right away. The whole group started laughing but the people in the white group had no idea why. It's amazing how our brains are able to do amazing things, but when it comes to something as simple as noticing a dancing gorilla, our brains neglect to tell us its there.

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