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The Invisible Gorilla

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

Forest with streams of sunlight shining through trees

"Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice a fully-visible, but unexpected object because attention was engaged on another task, event, or object."

— Scholarpedia

In 1999 Daniel Simmons and Christopher Chabris conducted a psychological research project called “The Invisible Gorilla.” The premise was simple. They filmed several young people playing basketball in a hallway, then asked test subjects to view the video and count how many times the players in the white shirts passed the ball. The subjects watched the video carefully and reported their results.

Simmons and Chabris concluded each session by asking one simple question of the test subjects: “Did you see the gorilla?” Most were dumbfounded. When they viewed the video again, they were stunned to realize that, at one point in the short film, a man dressed in a gorilla costume had walked right out into the middle of the players, beat his chest, then walked out again. The viewers had been so focused on the task of counting the passes that they had overlooked a large gorilla.

We’re all affected by this perceptual blindness. There are times we don't see things that are right in front of us.

Sometimes they’re the issues and problems that we refuse to face, blind spots that we don’t see in ourselves that affect life in a negative way. Perhaps it’s emotional baggage from the past, or bitterness, resentment. It holds us back from finding contentment, happiness, success.

It might even be the good things in life—family, friends, positive experiences—that we’re overlooking while focusing our attention on something else.

What’s your invisible gorilla?


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