The Invisible Gorilla

The Invisible Gorilla was about how our minds deceive us into believing we see more than we actually do. We actually miss a ton of information when we’re looking around. The book was named after an infamous selective attention task involving basketball players passing a basketball back and forth. I won’t ruin the experiment for you, but if you would like, you can read about it here. I really enjoy books that mix science and storytelling in a compelling way. Christopher and Daniel did just that.

Note: these are a collection of my highlights and notes from the book. In some cases, I highlight just a word or phrase.

This error of perception results from a lack of attention to an unexpected object, so it goes by the scientific name “inattentional blindness.

When people devote their attention to a particular area or aspect of their visual world, they tend not to notice unexpected objects, even when those unexpected objects are salient, potentially important, and appear right where they are looking.

illusion of attention: We experience far less of our visual world than we think we do.

“The real purpose of scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something that you actually don

Yet, the wiring of our visual expectations is almost entirely insulated from our conscious control. As we will discuss extensively in Chapter 4, our brains are built to detect patterns automatically, and the pattern we experience when driving features a preponderance of cars and a dearth of motorcycles.

Your moment-to-moment expectations, more than the visual distinctiveness of the object, determine what you see—and what you miss.

Expertise helps you notice unexpected events, but only when the event happens in the context of your expertise.

What is stored in memory is not an exact replica of reality, but a re-creation of it. We cannot play back our memories like a DVD—each time we recall a memory, we integrate whatever details we do remember with our expectations for what we should remember.

This phenomenon, the surprising failure to notice seemingly obvious changes from one moment to the next, is now known as change blindness

Inattentional blindness usually happens when we fail to notice the appearance of something we weren’t expecting to see.

Change blindness occurs when we fail to compare what’s there now with what was there before.

When we retrieve a memory, we can falsely believe that we are fetching a record of something that happened to us rather than someone else.

Unintentional plagiarism refers to cases in which people are convinced that an idea was their own when they actually learned about it from someone else.

In other words, if you recall how you experienced and learned something rather than merely what you experienced and learned, you are far more likely to trust the veracity of your memory.

Beware of memories accompanied by strong emotions and vivid details—they are just as likely to be wrong as mundane memories, but you’re far less likely to realize it.

The incompetent face two significant hurdles. First, they are below average in ability. Second, since they don’t realize that they are below average, they are unlikely to take steps to improve their ability.

And keep in mind that it is gaining real skill in a task, not just doing it more and more, that makes confidence a truer signal of ability. Experience does not guarantee expertise.

Competence helps to dispel the illusion of confidence. The key, though, is having definitive evidence of your own skills—you have to become good enough at what you do to recognize your own limitations.

A different strategy consistently outperforms all others: With no prior discussion, each person should write down his or her best estimate, and then the group should simply average together all the independent estimates.

At least in medicine, an expert is evidently expected to have all relevant knowledge stored in memory; consulting a reference is even worse than effectively saying “what the hell” and charging ahead.

Looking back, he realizes that the doctor had the self-awareness to know the limits of her knowledge and the true competence to look information up rather than charge ahead with a decision in a false show of bravado.

As a rule, reading text over and over again yields diminishing returns in actual knowledge, but it increases familiarity and fosters a false sense of understanding. Only by testing ourselves can we actually determine whether or not we really understand.

“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

Yogi Berra explained, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

we must first consider three separate, but interrelated, biases that contribute to the illusion of cause. These biases arise from the fact that our minds are built to detect meaning in patterns, to infer causal relationships from coincidences, and to believe that earlier events cause later ones.

Yet the mark of true expertise is not the ability to consider more options, but the ability to filter out irrelevant ones.

Through a process of “selective matching,” the subjects in this experiment focused on patterns that existed only in subsets of the data, such as a few days when low pressure and pain happened to coincide, and neglected the rest.

we have discussed the three biases underlying the illusion of cause—overzealous pattern detection mechanisms, the unjustified leap from correlation to causation, and the inherent appeal of chronological narratives

The illusion of potential leads us to think that vast reservoirs of untapped mental ability exist in our brains, just waiting to be accessed—if only we knew how. The illusion combines two beliefs: first, that beneath the surface, the human mind and brain harbor the potential to perform at much higher levels, in a wide range of situations and contexts, than they typically do; and second, that this potential can be released with simple techniques that are easily and rapidly implemented.

Unfortunately, people who do more crosswords decline mentally at the same rate as those who do fewer crosswords.54 Practice improves specific skills, not general abilities.

“narrow transfer,” where improvement on one mental skill transfers to other highly similar skills.

“broad transfer,” because they have little surface-level similarity to Sudoku.

“expectancy effect”
NOTE: When video game experts are included Ina study, they might perform better simply because they know they’re supposed to

Unfortunately, thinking in words about a person’s appearance can actually impair your ability to recognize that person later. Although this possibility was known in the 1950s, interest in it was revived by a series of experiments conducted in 1990, when it was given the new name “verbal overshadowing.