The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
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Reading this book will make you less sure of yourself—and that’s a good thing. In The Invisible Gorilla, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, creators of one of psychology’s most famous experiments, use remarkable stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to demonstrate an important truth: Our minds don’t work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we’re actually missing a whole lot.
Chabris and Simons combine the work of other researchers with their own findings on attention, perception, memory, and reasoning to reveal how faulty intuitions often get us into trouble. In the process, they explain:
• Why a company would spend billions to launch a product that its own analysts know will fail
• How a police officer could run right past a brutal assault without seeing it
• Why award-winning movies are full of editing mistakes
• What criminals have in common with chess masters
• Why measles and other childhood diseases are making a comeback
• Why money managers could learn a lot from weather forecasters
Again and again, we think we experience and understand the world as it is, but our thoughts are beset by everyday illusions. We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We’re sure we know where we were on 9/11, falsely believing that vivid memories are seared into our minds with perfect fidelity. And as a society, we spend billions on devices to train our brains because we’re continually tempted by the lure of quick fixes and effortless self-improvement.
The Invisible Gorilla reveals the myriad ways that our intuitions can deceive us, but it’s much more than a catalog of human failings. Chabris and Simons explain why we succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects. Ultimately, the book provides a kind of x-ray vision into our own minds, making it possible to pierce the veil of illusions that clouds our thoughts and to think clearly for perhaps the first time.
chi-square, we found that none of the differences in voting patterns were statistically significant. In other words, there might not even have been a reliable association between viewing preferences and voting patterns, making the causal claim that Peter Jennings influenced voting just by smiling even less likely. In the modern era of polling, sample sizes to make claims like those in the paper would need to be at least an order of magnitude larger. 45. Transcribed from a Flash version of the
Ever Trust Our Memories? In many cases, memory distortions and embellishments are minor matters, but in some contexts they have tremendous consequences, precisely because of the illusion of memory. When people are subject to the illusion of memory, they impugn the intentions and motivations of those who are innocently misremembering. The power of this illusion was revealed in a crucial incident in the 2008 presidential campaign. Running against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination,
the correct count. Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health and Eric Lander of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leaders of the Genome Project, were each off by more than 100 percent, no better than the average guess. The collective also had a pretty poor idea of how quickly the gene-count question would be resolved (predicted: 2003, actual: 2007 or later). Collins reacted stoically: “Oh well, live and learn.” This is far from the only example of scientists overestimating
dramatic improvements in mental task performance immediately after the Mozart sonata, but not after silence or relaxation.12 Meanwhile, psychologists interested in music and cognition began to examine this discovery, which was intriguing because no previous research had shown that merely listening to music could have such a large effect on mental ability. The first independent research group to publish its findings was headed by Con Stough of the University of Auckland in New Zealand.13 They
magazine ad featuring a male model. The students were asked to rate how masculine the image was, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 standing for “very masculine,” and 5 standing for “very feminine.” One class saw just the ad and gave an average rating of 3.3 on the scale. The other class saw the ad with the word “man” subliminally presented on it, using the same technique as in the movie theater experiment. Their average rating was 2.4. Only 3 percent of the first class rated the image a 1 or 2, but 61