“The Invisible Gorilla,” by Chabris and Simons

Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons’ book, The Invisible Gorilla, originated with a research study on selective attention (watch the video here). What resulted was a thought-provoking look at several everyday illusions that affect how we think and behave. These illusions are common and persistent and difficult to change, influencing our lives on a daily basis. The predominant illusions are:

  • The illusion of attention – we experience far less of our visual and auditory world than we think we do; we often look, but fail to see, and tend to not see what we are not looking for.
  • The illusion of memory – there is a difference between what we think we remember and what we actually remember, so we tend to integrate what we do remember with what we think we should remember.
  • The illusion of confidence – we have a mistaken belief that confidence equates to competence, ability, and knowledge, and, interestingly, those who are the least skilled are likely to be disproportionately confident.
  • The illusion of knowledge – we tend to think we know more than we do, falsely equating familiarity to understanding; knowledge of “what” is not the same as knowledge of “why.”
  • The illusion of cause – we tend to infer the existence of hidden causes where they do not exist, inferring cause from events that happen in a sequence or pattern.
  • The illusion of potential – we believe that we have a vast reservoir of untapped mental ability in our brains, and simple techniques can help us unlock that potential.

According to Chabris and Simons’, these illusions tend to lead us to believe that our mental abilities and capacities are greater than they actually are, and in turn have a dramatic effect on our everyday lives. Their book is full of research tests, illustrations, and actual national/global events and stories that support their studies, but they also provide some thoughts on tools and strategies for managing those illusions. I found it to be a very interesting discussion on how our brain processes the world, and thought that it provided some provoking insight on what we think we know. But before picking up this book, you need to start by watching the video.

 

Chabris, C., and Simons, D. (2010). The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us. MJF Books: New York, NY.

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