A Passenger Elevator study roughly a decade ago that many now find hard to believe revealed that if people are asked to focus on a video of other people passing basketballs, about half of watchers missed a person in a gorilla suit walking in and out of the scene thumping its chest.
Now research delving further into this effect shows that people who know that such a surprising event is likely to occur are no better at noticing other unforeseen events — and may even be worse at noticing them — than others who aren't expecting the unexpected.
The so-called "invisible gorilla" test had volunteers watching a video where two groups of people — some dressed in white, some in black — are passing basketballs around. The volunteers were asked to count the passes among players dressed in white while ignoring the passes of those in black. (To watch the video for yourself.
These confounding findings from cognitive psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris detailed in a 1999 study revealed how people can focus so hard on something that they become blind to the unexpected, even when staring right at it. When one develops "inattentional blindness," as this effect is called, it becomes easy to miss details when one is not looking out for them.
"Although people do still try to rationalize why they missed the gorilla, it's hard to explain such a failure of awareness without confronting the possibility that we are aware of far less of our world than we think," Simons told LiveScience.Gorilla infamy.
Of course, these results are utterly counterintuitive, with 90 percent of people now predicting that they would notice the gorilla in the video. The problem is that this video has become so famous that many people know to look for a gorilla when asked to count basketball passes.
In new research, Simons decided to use the infamy of the invisible gorilla to his advantage, creating a similar video that asked for the same results from the audience."I thought it would be fun to see if I could monkey with people's intuitions again using almost the same task," Simons said.(Stop now! Before reading further, try his test out here.)
The idea with this new video was to see if those who knew about the invisible gorilla beforehand would be more or less likely to notice other unexpected events in the same video."You can make two competing predictions," Simons said. "Knowing about the invisible gorilla might increase your chances of noticing other unexpected events because Elevator Company know that the task tests.