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The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us Hardcover – 2010
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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)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I was tickled to read about how I self delude daily in complacent mindless non-thinking. But other authors use a graphic novel approach which is more visually stimulating, for example:
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I enjoy both text and visual formats of presenting data
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Edward Tufte.
When I do not emotionally link with a write
Writing Alone and with Others Pat Schneider text for the Amherst Writing Initiative
I find that following the Great Books' Shared Inquiry process
Great Books of the Western World University of Chicago selections 1930s
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading Mortimer Adler
I read the selection twice. The first time I highlight and underline, write questions in the margin: factual questions (investigative journalist what when why where how who), interpretive questions (what did that mean? why the use of that word, that color? why did the author say it in that way? what colors come to mind as I read? what do I think the author is trying to imply? which forms the bulk of my queries), evaluative questions (very brief assessment of emotional responses, did the author succeed in conveying what I perceive was the author's goal with producing the work? did I like it? did I learn something?)
After a first read, when I am convinced, alarmingly, that I understand what is happening in the write, I reread and repeat the process using a different color pencil. Only on second reading do I realize that I never really understood what I read the first time.
Then I meet with a Great Books Group who have shared the exact same text, and the exact same process in solitude, and we share questions. I am shocked, informed, and my mind is broadened by the wealth of unexpected responses others provide to what I thought was a cut and dried conclusion, my conclusion. As I have engaged with this process over the years, from school age when my parents were Great Books Leaders, to my 40s when a group of friends formed a Great Books Group, to now in our 70s and 80s as we are rereading these oldies but goodies I am discovering ever new depths of understanding, and entirely different understandings of classic writes.
I apply the same read it twice and think about it alone before discussing with others approach to contemporary writes
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics) Hannah Arendt.
But the most informative discussions surround decades old readings. Since I retain my old books, underlining margin notes and all, I can see how my thinking has evolved with time. More particularly I see how arrogance, self importance, confidence (extrovert delusion) of youth is embarrassingly revealed in my portentous former notations.
With age I am growing more and more humble, as memories of puerile strutting self assurance resurface.
Susan Cain relates the experience of high school reunions: you notice many of your classmates as more introverted than you remember, quieter, more self contained, less in need of excitement. . . more emotionally stable, agreeable, conscientious . . . Psychologists call this "intrinsic maturation." p318
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Susan Cain
Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd
fascinating bonus disc features, interviews with the actors in the present, commentary behind each of the 3 episodes on what was in the minds of the film producers at the time, who the characters were based on, making of featurette.
The same process can be seen in the PBS series about Queen Victoria her husband Albert, her Prime Ministers and growing oneself up to meet the challenges of governance
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I read the footnotes, appendices and look up references as questions arise and find more than sufficient to keep my curiosity engaged for which I grant it 5*.
The illusions that they illustrate do seem to be common human failings:
o We overestimate our ability to multi-task
o We overestimate the accuracy of our memories
o We mistake confidence for capability
o We confuse causation with correlation
One particular peril that the authors justly explicate is the faultiness of eyewitness identification. No one who reads this book is likely to trust an eyewitness in a court of law.
The book, however, feels padded. The descriptions of the clever experiments are worthwhile, as are the critiques of faulty studies. But the authors expend a lot of verbiage on speculation, trying to squeeze whole chapters out of information that could be conveyed in two pages. They also seem to be rather confident that the next study won't contradict what the last one seemed to prove.
I also don't understand why they take a few illusions that humans fall prey to and declare that intuition is the culprit. We also are vulnerable to optical illusions, but we don't walk around with eyes shut.
So if your customer research is more anecdote than actuality, take a fascinating side trip through "The Invisible Gorilla." The book addresses six everyday illusions: Attention, Memory, Confidence. Knowledge, Cause, and Potential.
Warning! This hard-to-put-down book will be hard on you--if you've based your customer research on the wrong hypotheses, incorrect associations (versus cause), and "change blindness blindness." I'll read this book again--maybe three times!