Author Topic: the Invisible Gorilla  (Read 694 times)

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Offline screwtape

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the Invisible Gorilla
« on: March 19, 2012, 09:01:45 AM »
I'm reading up on psychology and how to influence people lately.  I came across a book called The Invisible Gorilla.  It is about common, everyday illusions that are part of the standard functioning of brains that make us blind to important things. 

The title is in reference to a video they made for an experiment.  Before I give away too much, go to this site:
http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/videos.html

Watch the videa and count how many times the team with the black shirts pass the ball to each other.  PM your answer to me, I will let you know if you are right. 

Please keep other commentary about the video to yourself until wednesday 3/21.  Then we can all discuss the results.
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Offline inveni0

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2012, 11:31:43 AM »
I got the right answer...and yes...I saw it.  In fact, I found it very distracting.

On the monkey business illusion, I also passed with flying colors.

I also did pretty well on the movie perception test.

But the concept is pretty interesting, and I know for a fact that my wife would probably fail a lot of it.  But I'm the one that notices when things change between shots during movies and such, and she doesn't.  She's not perceptive.
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Offline atheola

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2012, 11:50:52 AM »
I give..what  magic rabbit do you pull out of your hat on 3/21? Is that when End TimesTM happen? :D
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Offline screwtape

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2012, 12:17:42 PM »
atheola, you need to go to the website I linked up top.  There are videos there you would need to see in order to participate in the conversation.

The Invisible Gorilla is about everyday illusions, gaps between what we think we see and hear and reality, between our extimation of our own competence and knowledge and how good we really are, between our estimation of other people's competence and their actual competence.

The videos were used in studies to understand how people's attention works.  It turns out, attention is a very limited resource.  There is a trick in the first video that roughly 50% of people miss.  It is not a commentary on whether they are rubes or smart.  Some people just miss it.

The book discusses 6 common everyday illusions.  Next week, when I have time, I will summarize them.

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Online jaimehlers

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2012, 01:23:49 PM »
I was off by one on the number of white-shirt passes.  Though, I saw a similar video once and got fooled, so I've been trying to be more observant since.  I'm exactly the sort of person who can really focus on something to the point where I miss other things, so I've been working to watch without watching.  It's helped my driving quite a bit, for example, because I don't focus on anything, so I tend to notice most things.

Offline velkyn

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2012, 01:59:40 PM »
when they had the shows about this on the Science Channel, I did my best at the videos and got fooled rather well.   definitely shows that the human brain is not completely trustworthy.  But that's why we have science.
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Offline Hemingway

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2012, 02:09:11 PM »
I saw this video some time back and yes..... I totally missed the gorilla!!!!
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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2012, 02:29:37 PM »
I took the gorilla for a metaphor, and when it actually appeared, it surprised me, and threw off my counting of the passes.  Toward the end, I'd noticed that one of the passers in black had disappeared, but couldn't recollect when it happened.  Completely missed the background changing.

I've noticed this sort of thing happening before.  For instance, I was leaving the house, and looking for my keys.  I systematically went from room to room, starting with the kitchen.  I scanned all the counters, which were bare except for an empty box toward the back of one of them.  No keys on the counters, so I lifted the box to be sure they weren't under it.  Nothing there, so I proceeded through the rest of the house.

The keys didn't turn up, so I decided to restart my search.  This time, however, the keys were sitting on the counter about a foot from where the box was. 

What had happened was, I hadn't looked directly at the spot where the keys were, so my mind filled in the spot that I wasn't focused on with the pattern of the counter top. 

Very interesting topic.  : )
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Offline inveni0

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2012, 09:32:40 AM »
Now that we're sharing in a little more depth:

When the Gorilla appeared in the first clip, I noticed it, but I didn't notice that it stopped to bang its chest.  Obviously, I was busy counting.  So while I was aware of the gorilla, I wasn't aware of its actions aside from its presence.

In the second, better produced video, I noticed something leaving the screen, but I wasn't sure what it was.  I just knew that something black had walked away.  Still, too busy counting to pay attention.

This doesn't really strike me as a phenomenon, though.  Asking someone to use the "logical half" of their brain while simultaneously accessing the "creative" or "abstract half" and then pretending that it's some kind of trick is not clever, and it doesn't reveal anything about the human brain.  All it really shows is that, when we focus all of our attention on a single thing, we tend to fail at observing other items.  But that's okay.  We're not actually observing those items at all.  It's not even the purpose.  Even though the things we miss are logical, we can't be expected to recognize those things.  They aren't the focus.

Let's bring this back to religion (or to religion in the first place).  When religion is the primary focus of someone's mind, they'll ignore logic.  And the same when logic is the primary focus...we'll ignore religion.  Take the movie perception test with the two women.  If I told you to count the things changing in the scene, you'd be less likely to remember who traveled from where and how long it took.  You'd also likely not notice the topic of conversation.  It would be a complete reversal.  It's simply the ability to concentrate.

Imagine what a crazy life it would be if you COULDN'T block out certain stimuli when performing a task.  This isn't a fault of the brain.  It's a product of evolution.  It aids in toolmaking, language, literature, mathematics, science, etc.  It's what elevates us above the brains of other animals.  I would go so far as to say that my noticing that things change or are different is a PROBLEM.  I have trouble paying attention.  (Which is horrible for a computer programmer.)  Finding those differences is a fault of my brain...not the other way around.

Now, if you can find all those differences AND decipher between them, you've got something special.  For instance, if you counted all the white passes at once, saw the monkey (ape) dance, AND counted the black passes, you'd certainly be good at processing information.
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Offline Aspie

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2012, 04:55:25 PM »
Psychological studies are perhaps the biggest reason why I find it difficult to so much as entertain the possibility of the Christian god being real. Evidence is constantly churned out demonstrating how unreliable human judgment truly is - the tainted memory recall of eyewitnesses due to bias, the defense mechanisms that distort information to preserve personal ideals and self-esteem, the desire for conformity compromising viewpoints and causing people to make bad decisions, and, finally, how we can't even necessarily perceive reality with as much accuracy as we'd like to believe. I'm reminded of a something I heard in a youtube video posted on this forum long ago: something to the effect of a more apt name for optical illusions would be brain failures. There's nothing inherently mystical about illusions, they just highlight the flaws and limitations of our own minds.

And yet, according to Christian dogma, our ultimate fates, heaven or hell, eternal bliss or agony, salvation or damnation, hinge upon this heavily flawed device. Despite the established unreliability of eyewitness testimony, we're to completely trust the writers of the Gospels as having relayed accurate historical accounts. Despite the evidence of unconsciously manipulated input of information to conform to closely-held worldviews we're to see the writers and early followers of the Bible as having earnestly pursued truth, rather than tendentiously spread dogma. Despite the established effects of conformity and brainwashing on human reasoning we're to see the large number of Christians as persuasive. And, despite how fallible the human mind truly is, we're to believe that it's possible to know with any degree of certainty that such a being exists. It doesn't matter that most Christian denominations are divided over interpretation of Biblical accounts. It doesn't matter that Biblical accounts are unsubstantiated and contradictory. It doesn't matter that the Biblical accounts we have aren't the original, but copies of copies of copies, etc. It doesn't matter that God hides himself from humanity. All that matters is that we find a way to twist and contort our lines of thought so that we accept very specific ancient magical assertions before time runs out. It's like being expected to use a broken compass to find your destination, and when you can't find it because the compass was pointing in the opposite direction, you're doomed. And, of course, the only way to reconcile this with a just, loving god is to believe that you deserve every bit of fire and brimstone.

Offline screwtape

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2012, 12:54:49 PM »
I promised a summary and it's overdue.  Here it is.

1. The illusion of attention. The invisible gorilla video illustrates that well.  We have only a limited resource of attention, though we do not perceive that.  Thus, while hands free cell phones seem like a good idea, they actually do not improve the situation at all.  This has been born out in actual studies. The authors give several examples of our failure to understand the illusion of attention.  The attack submarine USS Greenville’s crew failed to notice the Ehime Maru fishing boat when they did maneuvers.  Because of that, the Ehime Maru was sunk[1].

Part of this illusion is because the brain seeks familiar patterns.  It is how we make sense of the world quickly.  As a result, we see what we expect and do not see what we do not expect.  PareidoliaWiki is an example of this and is mentioned in the book.

2. The illusion of memory.  Most people think memory works like a video tape and to remember something, we need only wind it back and review it.  That is an illusion.  Memory captures feelings and ideas and a couple of details if we are lucky.  It is part what happened and part how we made sense of what happened.  The main example discussed is the incident where college basketball coach Bobby Knight had an altercation with Neil Reed.  Reed and Knight remembered things very differently.  When it was discovered the incident was caught on tape, it turned out they were both kind of right, but they both kind of exaggerated. It is possible both were lying.  But other examples of witnesses seeing something they did not see suggests it was probably faulty memory. 

Another example given was a man who was convicted of rape based on a woman who escaped an attack and identified him.  She testified in court as confidently as can be that he was without question the attacker.  He went to prison.  But 12 years later DNA evidence showed he could not have done it.  She felt horrible and struggled with guilt for years. Her confidence brings us to the next illusion.

3. The illusions of confidence and competence.  It turns out, they go together. 

We rate competence in other people based on their confidence.  However, most people overrate themselves.  It discussed one of my favorite psych studies of all time – Dunning and Kruger. Dunning & Kruger[2] showed that incompetent people consistently overrate their own skills and underrate the skills of people who are competent.  The more skill the acquire, the less likely they are to do this.  In fact, the most competent people often underrate themselves.

The book also discussed how confidence is a terrible indicator of competence for another reason.  Confidence is a personality trait.  People who are confident tend to be confident in all areas, whether they know what they are doing or not. Being confident is like having a nice smile. 

So the moral of this illusion is this – project confidence and people will trust you more.  But regard other confident people as potential idiots until they prove otherwise.

4. The illusion of knowledge.  Do you know how a toilet works?  Really?  Draw one.  Include the flushing mechanism.  Include the valve.  Can’t do it?  Okay.  Try a bicycle.  Include the brakes and the shifter and the weird ratcheting sprocket.  Can’t do that?  Don’t worry.  Most people can’t do it either.  They know how to work a toilet, so they kind of think they know how it works.  This is the illusion of knowledge.

If you ask someone how a simple mechanism works, ask “why is that?” each time they answer.  Most of the time they give up after the second question.

So if people do not really understand simple things like bikes and cylinder locks, why the heck do we think they know anything about complex systems, like economies?

We model things, but they are always too simple and ultimately fail.

5. The illusion of cause. We often think we understand causation.  We usually don’t.  For example, I was telling a friend of mine that homeopathy was a fraud.  She disagreed.  Her father is 105 (yes, he really is) and he took homeopathy all his life.  So there.  Homeopathy works. I tried to explain that did not mean homeopathy was responsible for his longevity, but she wasn’t hearing it. 

The illusion of cause breaks has 3 major contributions.

First, as discussed earlier, our brains are overactive pattern seekers. It takes the brain just .2 seconds to distinguish facial patterns in inanimate objects (like parking meters or car grilles).  It is biased to perceive meaning even if there is none.   

Second, because of this pattern seeking, we often view coincidences and correlations as causes. “I prayed for rain, and it rained!”  Hyperactive pattern seeking leads to conspiracy theories and intellectual black holes.

Last, we love a narrative. Whenever we get a piece of information, we automatically ask “and then what happened?”  It is called temporal association.  We see later events as being caused by earlier events, whether they are related or not.  If you read, “Jim had asked his sister to stay for the weekend but she refused.  Later that weekend, he killed himself,” the natural conclusion you draw is that Jim’s suicide had something to do with his sister’s absence, when the two may be completely unrelated.     

6. The illusion of potential.  You know that old nugget about only using 5% of our brain?  This is it.  We like to think we have gobs and gobs of potential, just waiting to be unlocked.  We don’t.  We also like to think that there are easy ways to unlock that potential.  Remember the Baby Mozart bullshit from a few years ago?  It was all about instantly unlocking your baby’s superhuman potential just by playing music.  It never requires repetition or hard work.  Get ripped abs while sitting on you ass watching TV. Not likely.


I have some ideas about how all these play into religious belief.  But I’m tired of typing.  So, if you are interested, tell me your thoughts on that.  When my fingers have had a rest, I’ll join in.
 1.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ehime_Maru_and_USS_Greeneville_collision
 2.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect
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Offline Illuminatus99

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Re: the Invisible Gorilla
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2012, 08:00:34 PM »
Maybe it's my ADD or what I do for a living but I counted the correct number of passes and noticed the gorilla. As a DJ I have to pay attention to two or more songs at the same time and adjust their tempo to keep them synced up (listening to one song through the speakers and the other in the headphones), while that's going on I have to keep an eye on the crowd to see where I want to go with the music as I plan at least a few songs ahead coming up with what I'm going to play as well as how I want to mix it in. I also keep track of how much beer I have left in my glass and deal with people requesting songs.