February 22, 2020

Review: The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons.

Out now from Broadway Paperbacks!

Think you’ve got a grasp on how reality and human intuition works? Think you’re catching everything “in the moment” and that your memory works like a finely tuned HD video camera? This week’s review may have a few surprises for you. In The Invisible Gorilla, authors and psychology professors Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons posit what is becoming all too apparent in our modern stimulus-saturated world; that the true talent of the human mind may be in its ability to filter or ignore key events going on all around us. The title comes from a brilliant study the authors conducted a few years back summed up in a hallmark video; yes, thanks to the title of this review, YOU probably already see the gorilla leisurely strolling through the video; try this on an unsuspecting victim and see what happens. (Yes, the wife and I both failed the test, but I suspect that’s because we’re both writers; our ability to filter distractors is already finely honed!)

But beyond just missing college students in primate suits, the authors demonstrate the far reaching implications of the study; is it possible to have a jury that is impartial? Are hirings and firings conducted on a sound basis? Why is it that a single YouTube video can sway millions of viewers, despite a mountain of statistical data to the contrary?   One you’ve read the Invisible Gorilla, you may never look at the world (or yourself) in the same way again. It certainly explains many on the contrary facts of modern America;

-      Why do smart, college-educated people believe dumb things?

-      Why is it that folks seem to have a “blind spot” especially when it comes to finances?

-        How much of the torrent of information that we all now receive daily are we really absorbing?

The authors bring into focus some excellent examples that we may all be familiar with, such as trying to juggle our GPS and smart-phones while driving, or having conflicting stories of the same tale. Some of the stories are down-right laughable, such as the audio cable sold on Amazon from a company for $500, when in blind tests, audiophiles couldn’t tell the difference when coat hanger wires where used instead! Sure, we’ve all got that one friend, who swears he knows the difference… the studies of the corporate environment also echo scenes from The Office, or the recent Ig Nobel award that found that companies become more efficient over time if they simply promote people at random. Again, this certainly explains a lot of things…

Do yourself a favor and by-pass all the self-help books cluttering up your local bookstore in favor of The Invisible Gorilla; you may not be able to thwart your puny human mind, but at least recognizing its limitations is half the battle; soon, you might just start seeing “Invisible Gorillas” in your own exploits!



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