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The Invisible Gorilla [Paperback]

Christopher Chabris , Daniel Simons
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Mar 2011

If a gorilla walked out into the middle of a basketball pitch, you’d notice it. Wouldn’t you? If a serious violent crime took place just next to you, you’d remember it, right? The Invisible Gorilla is a fascinating look at the unbelievable, yet routine tricks that your brain plays on you.

In an award-winning and groundbreaking study, psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons asked volunteers to watch a 60-second film of a group of students playing basketball and told them to count the number of passes made. About halfway through, a woman dressed head to toe in a gorilla outfit slowly moved to centre screen, beat her chest at the camera, and casually strolled away. Unbelievably, almost half of the volunteers missed the gorilla.

As this astonishing and utterly unique new book demonstrates, exactly the same kind of mental illusion that causes people to miss the gorilla can also explain why many other things, including why:

• honest eyewitness testimony can convict innocent defendants

• expert money managers suddenly lose billions

• Homer Simpson has much to teach you about clear thinking

Insightful, witty, and fascinating, The Invisible Gorilla closely examines the false impressions that most profoundly influence our lives and gives practical advice on how we can minimize their negative impact.

Frequently Bought Together

The Invisible Gorilla + Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average + The Upside of Irrationality
Price For All Three: 20.93

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (3 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000731731X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007317318
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Entertaining and illuminating"
Dan Ariely, New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational

"A riveting romp across the landscape of our psychological misperceptions."
Nicholas A. Christakis, Professor, Harvard Medical School

"This book will delight all who seek depth and insight into the wonder and complexities of cognition"
Jerome Groopman, Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School

"breathtaking and insightful"
Richard Wiseman, author of Quirkology

"Like its authors, the book is both funny and smart"
Joseph T. Hallinan, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Why We Make Mistakes

"incredibly engaging…a must-read"
Elizabeth Loftus, author of Memory and Eyewitness Testimony

"engaging, accurate and packed with real-world examples - some of which made me laugh out loud"
Sandra Aamodt, co-author of Welcome To Your Brain

"not just witty and engaging, but also insightful"
Thomas W. Malone, author of The Future of Work and founder of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence

"The Invisible Gorilla should be required reading by every judge and jury member in our criminal justice system, along with every battlefield commander, corporate CEO, and, well, you and I"
Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of Why People Believe Weird Things

"Clever, illuminating, by turns shocking and delightful, this book will change a lot of your bad habits and could even save your life"
Margaret Heffernan, CEO and author of Women on Top

About the Author

Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel J. Simons won the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology for Gorillas in Our Midst. Chabris is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Union College in New York. He was formerly a Lecturer and Research Associate in the Psychology Department at Harvard. Simons is a Professor Department of Psychology and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. Both authors have had research published in top scientific journals with extensive media coverage worldwide.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All is not what it seems 3 Mar 2012
Chabris and Simons are responsible for the famous gorilla video, subject of the 1999 'Gorillas in the Midst' article in Perception, which has been widely used in safety training (among other things). If you haven't seen the video I won't spoil it!

Chapter 1 focuses on the 'illusion of attention' / 'seeing but not seeing' concentrating on the original experiment, a case of a Boston policemen who missed a seeing a crime while in hot pursuit, the USS Greenville SSN / FV Eime Mahru collision, road accidents and NASA Ames simulator studies where runway incursions were missed by approaching aircraft. Relevant to consideration of the difficulty (even the danger) of multi-tasking.

Chapter 2 looks at how we don't remember as well as we think. Examples include some quick post 9/11 experiments, spotting (or not) film continuity errors and so on.

Chapter 3 looks at how on average people think they are smarter than the average! It also looks at a mistaken, but highly confident, identification leading to a wrongful conviction.

Chapter 4 is on the 'illusion of knowledge', a mistaken belief that we actually understand more than we do.

Chapter 5 is on false perception of causality, using the false connection between the MMR jab and autism as an example, and also how one anecdote from a friend have more effect than stacks of scientific data on perceptions and behaviour.

Chapter 6 covers the optimistic 'illusion of potential' i.e. thinking we have great untapped mental resources that can be release by (say) listening to Mozart.

The concluding chapter wraps this up with a neat exercise to spot the 6 illusions.

The earlier chapters do tend to be stronger than the subsequent ones.

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What you you see and what is actually there..... 1 July 2010
By Caroline P. VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
...can be astonishingly different. What is more, being quite confident and sure of what you have seen is no guarantee that you are right.

Our ability to miss what is right in front of our noses is a 'normal' part of human perception. Despite that, it's a part most of us are utterly oblivious too. People have gone to prison because juries can't believe the defendant failed to miss something "so obvious". People have gone to prison because witnesses have been so certain of their memories. And yet both of these can be completely wrong.

This book, written in a very readable manner but grounded firmly in evidence, will open your eyes to how your (and everyone else's) brain works. It is genuinely an interesting read, so don't be put off if you feel you aren't "scientifically minded". The authors write with ordinary people in mind - and for ordinary people it is an eye-opening education indeed. Most of us can recall times when we missed something - the "car that came from nowhere" at a junction we narrowly missed hitting and so on. It is really deeply interesting to understand what is going on that allows that to happen. Indeed, not only is it interesting but by bringing this aspect of human cognition to our attention, the authors hope and intend that it may make us at least a little less vulnerable in the future. (And maybe also more understanding of apparently "unbelievable" lapses in memory or awareness in other people).

A very readable glimpse into how our minds work aimed at the "ordinary" reader.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The authors demonstrate how experimentation can illuminate mental processes and come up with both surprising and useful results, and they do so in an engaging and accessible style.

The book starts out with the phenomenon referred to in the title, and which the authors are best-known for, i.e. the Invisible Gorilla experiment. This has become well-known but I won't describe it in case the reader has not experienced the phenomenon. Richard Wiseman has a nice video demonstrating it. This is perhaps the most striking example of how we can deceive ourselves and be over-confident in our judgement of what we see, remember or know. In all there are six chapters, each dealing with a different 'everyday illusion' to which we are susceptible.

My personal favourites were the last two chapters, which consider why people continue to believe in notions such as the damaging effect of MMR vaccination, or the beneficial effects of brain training for the elderly. Sceptics tend to dismiss those who persist such beliefs in the face of negative evidence, and denigrate them as stupid and scientifically illiterate. Chabris and Simons, however, are interested in why scientific evidence is so often rejected and consider why it is that anecdotes so much more powerful than data, and why we are sucked in to assuming there is causation when only correlation has been demonstrated. My one disappointment was that they did not say more about the reasons for wide individual variation in people's scepticism.

In sum, I enjoyed this book for the insights it gave into how people think and reason, and for its emphasis on the need to adopt scepticism as a mind-set. Its avoidance of jargon and clear explanations give it broad appeal, and it would make an ideal text for undergraduates entering the field of experimental psychology, because it illustrates how a good experimenter thinks about evidence and designs studies to test hypotheses.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why don't we all know this? 22 July 2011
By Mrs. R.
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When my gran was in her 70s, she stepped into the road in front of a car. They were both going slowly, and my gran was knocked over but OK.
When she got up she shouted, "It was a hit and run!".
"No, it was me, I'm here and I'm really sorry," said the woman who had driven the car.
"It was a blue car!" shouted my gran.
"No, it's white, it's right here, it's mine," said the distraught driver.
"It came from nowhere!" said my gran.
"No, I was just turning out of this street. You looked right at me," said the woman.
The police did not press charges, which was fair enough.
We like to think our memories are reliable, even as we grow older and joke about forgetting why we came into a room and having to go back and start again. We also like to think that our observational skills are reliable. The Invisible Gorilla proves that we aren't anywhere near as reliable as we think we are. Our brains don't simply record like video cameras, they interpret, and more importantly they miss huge chunks out.
The Invisible Gorilla is one of those science books that's so fascinating that you forget it's about science. I mean that nicely. (Why can't more schoolbooks be like this? We'd all end up better educated.) It's a great read, essential for everyone who is interested in how our brains really work. It should also be on the compulsory reading list for everyone involved in the law because it shows that witnesses are unreliable. No matter how well they think they observed a scene, they are pretty much guaranteed to have got it wrong. Do read it, because it will make you question the way you see the world, and that's always a good thing.
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