WATCH THE VIDEOS ABOVE BEFORE READING THE ARTICLE.
(If you have never viewed the first video, count the number of times the people wearing white passed the ball.)
I am always cognizant of these experiments and how they affect my thinking.
These are classic psychology videos that show the limits of human cognitive abilities. In the first experiment by Professors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, subjects watched six people pass basketballs and were told to count the number of times the people wearing white passed the ball. Half of the observers missed the gorilla who entered the scene, thump his chest, and walk away. In the second video, a follow-up to the gorilla experiment, pedestrians were so engrossed in giving directions to a passer-by that they failed to notice that the passer-by changed!
What Does This Mean in Life?
Why did half the participants miss the gorilla in the film? They were not expecting to see it. They weren’t looking for it. Their focus was entirely on something else.
Reminds me of the old joke about the gate at a factory where workers are checked when they leave work. One employee comes out each night with a wheelbarrow full of dirt, and each night the guards carefully go through the dirt for pilferage: nothing. This happens for years. Turns out the guy is stealing wheelbarrows.
In life, be mindful. Beautiful things are happening right in front of your eyes. Your family, your kids, your life. You just can’t see it because you were too busy looking. How many of us are so focused on “I will be happy when I (fill in the blank)” or “Life will be good when _______” without recognizing or showing gratitude for what we already have? Did you see the sun this morning? Smell that cup of coffee? Your gorilla is thumping its chest right in front of you and you don't even notice.
I have a cousin who works and lives in another country away from his wife and child. He probably makes a ton of money yet I cannot fathom not being with my children growing up, missing the school concerts, the small talks with my wife, etc. Don’t focus just on the balls. Remember to remember.
(You can also cite this experiment to explain or rationalize why you didn’t notice your girlfriend’s or spouses new hairdo or handbag (absolutely no guarantee that this will work.)
You don't know what you can't see. Don't think that your data and analysis (or someone else's) are 100% conclusive. Past experience is not a 100% indicator of the present situation (or even reality). Always question whether you are missing the gorilla in the picture.
This is Never Ending
Once you focus on what you were missing and learn to refocus on, you miss out on what else you are not focusing on. (This sounds a bit like what Yogi Berra or George Bush Jr. might say.)
Simons repeated the experiment with a twist. He showed the video to people who already knew about the first test. Only 17% saw the new event that was added to the video. (I failed this test too.)
Try it out yourself below.
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
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