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The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us Hardcover – May 18, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1 edition (May 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307459659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307459657
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tom Vanderbilt Reviews The Invisible Gorilla

Tom Vanderbilt writes on design, technology, architecture, science, and many other topics. He is author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) published in 2008 by Alfred A. Knopf, and Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America, published in 2002 by Princeton Architectural Press. He is contributing editor to I.D. and Print magazines, contributing writer at Design Observer, and writes for many publications, ranging from Wired to the New York Times to Men's Vogue to the Wilson Quarterly. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Do you remember when you first saw--or more likely, didn’t see--the gorilla? For me it was one afternoon a number of years ago when I clicked open one of those noxious-but-irresistible forwarded emails ("You Won’t Believe Your Eyes!"). The task was simple--count the number of passes in a tight cluster of basketball players--but the ensuing result was astonishing: As I dutifully (and correctly) tracked the number of passes made, a guy in a gorilla suit had strolled into the center, beat his chest, and sauntered off. But I never saw the gorilla. And I was hardly alone.

The video, which went on to become a global viral sensation, brought "inattentional blindness"--a once comparatively obscure interest of cognitive psychologists--into striking relief. Here was a dramatic reminder that looking is not necessarily seeing, that “paying” attention to one thing might come at the cost of missing another altogether. No one was more taken with the experience than the authors of the original study, Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, as they recount in their new--and, dare I say, eye-opening--book, The Invisible Gorilla. "The fact that people miss things is important," they write, "but what impressed us even more was the surprise people showed when they realized what they had missed."

The Invisible Gorilla uses that ersatz primate as a departure point (and overarching metaphor) for exploring the myriad of other illusions, perceptual or otherwise, that we encounter in everyday life--and our often complete lack of awareness as we do so. These "gorillas" are lurking everywhere--from the (often false) memories we think we have to the futures we think we can anticipate to the cause-and-effect chains we feel must exist. Writing with authority, clarity, and a healthy dose of skepticism, Simons and Chabris explore why these illusions persist--and, indeed, seem to multiply in the modern world--and how we might work to avoid them. Alas, there are no easy solutions--doing crosswords to stave off cognitive decline in one’s dotage may simply make you better at doing crosswords. But looking for those "gorillas in our midst" is as rewarding as actually finding them.

(Photo © Kate Burton)


From Publishers Weekly

Professors of Psychology Chabris and Simons write about six everyday illusions of perception and thought, including the beliefs that: we pay attention more than we do, our memories are more detailed than they are, confident people are competent people, we know more than we actually do, and our brains have reserves of power that are easy to unlock. Through a host of studies, anecdotes, and logic, the authors debunk conventional wisdom about the workings of the mind and what "experts" really know (or don't). Presented almost as a response to Malcolm Gladwell's blink, the books pay special attention to "the illusion of knowledge" and the danger of basing decision-making, in areas such as investing, on short-term information; in the authors' view, careful analysis of assumed truths is preferred over quick, intuitive thinking. Chabris and Simons are not against intuition, "...but we don't think it should be exalted above analysis without good evidence that it is truly superior."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

This book will change the way you think.
Stephanie Kay bendel
The Invisible Gorilla points out how this attention illusion can have real and sometimes harsh results in the real world.
Alan Dale Daniel
In general, this book was very readable, very enjoyable, but very informative as well.
HeatherHH

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

172 of 181 people found the following review helpful By Alan Dale Daniel on April 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Invisible Gorilla is an unusual name for an unusual book. The authors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons have assembled a evidence of six illusions that impact our lives in significant ways. Chapter One deals with the illusion of attention, that is, the illusion that we see or observe far more than we think. Several experiments have proven that even obvious things are easily missed by people. Up to fifty percent of testers failed to see a fake gorilla enter a basketball game where the testers were counting the number of ball passes rather than looking for gorillas. It is from this experiment that the book gets its name.

Most think that such a gorilla would be easily noticed; however, various experiments have shown this is not the case. This lack of ability to see objects that are not expected may explain why cars pull out in front of motorcycles, as it is theorized that people driving cars do not expect to see motorcycles and thus they do not. Cell phone users also miss obvious objects while they are driving. It seems cell phone users that are driving suffer from a reduction in awareness, but they are not aware of it. Thus the illusion that they are as fully aware while talking on the phone as they are when the phone is not in use. The Invisible Gorilla points out how this attention illusion can have real and sometimes harsh results in the real world.

Then the book goes on to describe five other illusions: the illusion of memory, the illusion of knowledge and confidence, the illusion that in a series of events, event one causes event two, and the illusion that certain mythical processes - such as hypnotism - can help one reach their full potential.
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82 of 88 people found the following review helpful By jhl VINE VOICE on March 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
No matter how carefully you think about what you're doing, no matter how realistic your view of the world seems to be, you're apparently fooling yourself. According to psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, our brains are hardwired to edit our perceptions and memories, to misinterpret evidence and jump to conclusions. They outline a variety of illusions the human mind falls prey to, some of which make intuitive (uh-oh - the goal of the book is to prove the unreliability of intuition) sense, including the fact that our brains edit information coming from our senses (we can all understand that if we noticed everything happening around us we could pay attention to none of it) and overconfidence (surprise! People who don't know very much about a subject overestimate how much they understand - I have some colleagues I'd like to hand that chapter to). Others were more startling - that in general people tend to believe the first "evidence" of a fact they receive, especially when it's presented emotionally, and they resist later evidence to the contrary, no matter how convincing (so it's not just those idiots from the other end of the political spectrum who do that!).

The Invisible Gorilla presents a lot of illuminating information that is well worth reading - it's both interesting and enlightening. I guess popular psychology books are expected to propose a solution to the problems they outline, so the final chapter offers somewhat less compelling suggestions for avoiding your brain's false intuitions. While on the one hand I was glad to discover that I'm a normal human, not an inattentive dummy (which is what I feel like when I'm driving, and I don't even own a cell phone!), on the other I was sorry to learn that there's not a whole lot of hope for change, barring a life of hyper-vigilance.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Lately, there has been a plethora of books trying to popularize the more interesting and counter-intuitive results from fields like behavioral psychology. All of those books, as far as I'm aware, mention a particularly famous study where participants are asked to view a video of basketball players and asked to count the number of passes. As odd as it sounds, about half of the participants fail to notice the "invisible gorilla" - a man dressed like a gorilla strolling from one side of the court to the other.

These two authors are the inventors of that and subsequent experiments. In other words, these authors are very knowledgeable about their field because, in a sense, they invented one of its primary experiments.

What is their focus in this book? Well, it is not so much that people didn't notice the "invisible gorilla" that surprised them, but the adamance with which participants denied that they could have missed something so obvious. Many disbelieved that there was actually a gorilla in the tape they were shown, accusing he researchers of playing a trick on them. So, the authors' mission in this book is to explore the human tendency toward overconfidence in their abilities.

Each chapter focuses on a different "illusion" that comes from the human tendency to (very subconsciously) overestimate our ability. They are as follows:

Chapter 1 - Illusion of Attention, or, the belief that we are attentive to much more than we actually are at any given moment.
Chapter 2 - Illusion of Memory, or, the illusion that our memories are much more exact than they are.
Chapter 3 - Illusion of Confidence, or, the illusion that confidence (in others) is a good sign of competence.
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