Imagine you are asked to watch a short video (above) in which eight people-four in white shirts and four in black shirts-pass basketballs around. While you watch, you must keep a silent count of the number of passes made by the people in white shirts. At some point, a gorilla strolls into the middle of the action, faces the camera and thumps its chest, and then leaves, spending nine seconds on screen. Would you see the gorilla?
Almost everyone has the intuition that the answer is "yes, of course I would." How could something so obvious go completely unnoticed? But when this experiment done at Harvard University several years ago, they found that half of the people who watched the video and counted the passes missed the gorilla. It was as though the gorilla was invisible.
It is not just for stage magic or fun psychology experiments. It is a key factor in our frequent inability to understand the world and make good decisions, and the ease with which we can be misled.
We are all guilty of missing the obvious, of failing to see the bigger picture because we are focusing on narrower tasks in hand. And this inability to see the obvious can prevent us from thinking more creatively. When we dedicate some time searching for an answer/solution our brain starts to examine all the possibilities using all resources available to find what we are seeking. However, if we are too focused all the time we can easily miss the gorilla.
Seeing things from another perspective is not always very easy depending on our personality. Sometimes we are too stubborn or too attached to our own point of views which makes the experience of trying new perspectives almost impossible. A solution for it is to ask people with very different backgrounds what would they do if…? Children are the best ones to ask, they come up with wonderful answers that might not solve your problem but listening to these different perspectives will make our brain take other paths and come up with unexpected and creative answers.
Look around, and we could be forgiven for believing that we can see a vivid and detailed picture of your surroundings. Indeed, we may even think that our eyes never deceive us. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our brain.
Do you want to spot the gorilla and everything else?