Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Invisible Gorilla Teaches Us About Human Illusions

Cover of The Invisible Gorilla
I just finished the book The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons and wanted to recommend it to everyone reading this blog, especially those who blog themselves.

The Invisible Gorilla is a psychology book dealing with the way humans often miss or wrongly perceive the world around them. The book takes its title from a famous psychology test created by the authors, which you can view here. The video easily illustrates the way we can become focused on a task which causes us to miss important things - for example, driving, working, etc.

Not only that, but the book also focuses on other "illusions" that we fall prey to every day. My favorites are the illusions of "cause" and "potential." The illusion of potential causes us to feel we have mental potential that, if tapped into, will cause us to become smarter in various ways. And the illusion of cause can lead us to draw cause-and-effect relationships between situations that do not actually correlate with each other.

I think as a blogger and blog reader it is very important to be aware of these illusions, especially when writing about scientific breakthroughs. Newspaper headlines often jump to conclusions when the actual study does not. Particularly when it comes to issues of deafness, there are a lot of current scientific breakthroughs and they often get a lot of press. It's important to be able to read between the lines of a sensationalist news article and try to get at what the scientific study is actually saying.

As a person with a disability, I think it really helped me to learn about the illusion of attention. Something blindingly obvious like a gorilla wandering into the middle of a basketball game seems like it would be seen, but it is missed by 50% of people. So wearing my hair up to indicate my hearing aid may not be as obvious as it seems like it should be. People are not expecting to see a hearing aid so they may bypass it entirely. It's the same thing with other signs that a person is deaf, blind, or has physical difficulties. People do not expect it so they may miss it.

I really recommend this book. Hope you enjoy it!

1 comment:

All comments on my blog are moderated, and I reserve the right not to publish any comments for any reason. This blog is set up so that anyone can comment. If you have trouble, email me, or check Blogger's help section.