Thursday, March 07, 2013

Seeing the Gorilla

There was a very interesting story on NPR a while back - "Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight."

The report discussed a psychological condition called inattentional blindness, which occurs when a person is so focused on a specific task that he or she completely misses other obvious things that are happening in plain sight at the same time.

In a classic experiment, test subjects were asked to watch a film of two teams passing a basketball, and were asked to identify how many times players wearing one color shirt passed the basketball to each other. During the basketball game, a man in a gorilla suit strolled halfway across the court, stopped to beat his chest, and then wandered off the other side. At the end of the film clip, the observers were asked if they'd seen the gorilla. Here's the test video ...

Fifty percent of the respondents didn't see the gorilla. You probably did because you were forewarned and looking for it. 

You can view the original film clip, and several other perception video tests, here.

The point of the experiment had nothing to do with basketball or gorillas, but with identifying why radiologists sometimes miss important things on the x-ray films they review. This brings us to the condition of "inattentional blindness" - the inability to see things that do not conform to what we are specifically looking for ... what we expect to see.

On reading this story, it occurred to me that inattentional blindness may be one of the reasons for our miserable political condition.

If you're a Republican or a Democrat, you tend to see only what you're looking for, based on your political biases. It's similar to the well-known concept of confirmation bias, which describes our tendency to ignore evidence that does not support our positions or agree with our preconceived ideas.

Perhaps you should write to your elected representatives and urge them to look for the gorillas. It couldn't hurt.

Have a good day. Watch out for gorillas. And come back for Cartoon Saturday.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

LOL but I didn't get the right amount of passes.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

This is really cool! I saw the gorilla, but saw only 12 passes!

Bilbo, this post has thingd I'm going to have fun with!

Your point about the poliicians is well-taken, too. They're locked in by atention biases, among other things.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

This self-test is impressive!

John Hill said...

Several years ago National Geographic aired a series of three programs called The Brain Games. They showed several test that are similar to this one as well as many others and explained the limitations of our brains and ability to pay attention to multiple things.

Mike said...

Politicians brains are unable to pay attention to anything at all.

KathyA said...

HMMMM, definitely food for thought. And I wonder if those of us with ADHD will spot it all? ;)

Duckbutt said...

This is an excellent test for inattentional blindness. I wonder how many people overlook the gorilla, though.