Even If You Know About The Gorilla, You Might Not Catch The Unexpected

from the did-you-see-it? dept

There's a very famous perception experiment, which many of you have probably seen. If you haven't, you should watch it here before reading on:
I will admit that the first time I saw it (at a conference), I totally missed the gorilla. Totally. Of course, once you've seen it or know about it, it's hard not to see it. And, by this point, so many people have seen it, that the overall video test has lost much of its power. So the folks behind it decided to see what would happen if they knew you were looking for the gorilla, and came up with the following:
Basically, they assumed that people were now looking for the gorilla, and got people to more or less focus on that, and miss the "new" changes. Once again, I have to admit I totally missed the changes. As the researchers are pointing out, this suggests that even if you're "expecting the unexpected," it's often difficult to notice it actually happening. As the researchers behind the videos note, many of the folks out there who use their original video to teach people to "expect the unexpected" are missing the point:
"A lot of people seem to take the message of our original gorilla study to be that people don't pay enough attention to what is happening around them, and that by paying more attention and 'expecting the unexpected,' we will be able to notice anything important," he added. "The new experiment shows that even when people know that they are doing a task in which an unexpected thing might happen, that doesn't suddenly help them notice other unexpected things."
The guys behind the videos have done some other unique experiments as well, which you can find on their website. The other one I really like is this experiment involving a guy asking a pedestrian for directions, where the guy asking for directions is secretly "switched" with someone else in the middle, and 50% of people don't even notice:


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    RadialSkid, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 7:48pm

    I got the first and third videos. On the second one I noticed the background change color, but I didn't notice the one person leave the area.

     

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    AW, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 7:53pm

    Re:

    Same here, I noticed she had walked off, but didn't realize she hadn't come back, I thought she had come back around the other side of the gorilla somehow.

     

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  3.  
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    Rod Allen, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 8:10pm

    Does this test really say a lot?

    Maybe the existing thought process we use is the best way for the majority of us to process information,..after all, if we acted like a computer, we really would need one, would we?

     

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    Drewshannon (profile), Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 8:16pm

    I think Dateline did both of these experiments last week as well, for those who want another look at it. Very interesting stuff indeed.

     

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  5.  
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    Steven (profile), Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 8:38pm

    I almost got it.

    This is the first time I've seen this. Got the gorilla in the first one. Noticed the black player left in the second one, but didn't catch the color change.

    Did get the right count both times though. :)

    Very interesting. I'm wondering though if somebody was to watch the video more than once, without the explanation, if they would be more likely to catch the unexpected, or if they would continue to miss it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 8:51pm

    ...Wow, I got both.

    Well, I caught the curtain colour at the very end (and really only noticed because of how fake the red background looked). But I still noticed the missing player as soon as she walked off.

     

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  7.  
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    Ilfar, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 8:56pm

    Re: I almost got it.

    Spotted the gorilla, but probably only cause I was primed by the title - missed the curtain change and person leaving completely :D

    I think you'd spot it the second time through even without an explanation, you wouldn't be concentrating on counting the passes then.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 9:30pm

    This is the blindness affecting the entertainment industry and the U.S. government that are so focused on punishment they forgot they can do things differently.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 9:31pm

    Door study

    For the people that noticed the changes, were they "tipped off" by sound (different voice) or appearance?

    Quick: What the color was the second guy wearing? Is it the same as the first guy?

     

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  10.  
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    Mr. Block (profile), Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 10:05pm

    Where's the controversy?

    I'm so used to reading about ridiculous lawsuits on Techdirt, I expected the article to end with the researcher being sued by someone.

     

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  11.  
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    Pwdrskir (profile), Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 10:31pm

    The Pussy switch

    Perspective has been a media favorite and magic’s friend forever. Perfect example is the uproar about the Sharrod video. The truth is the media, WH and NAACP all screwed up and are now trying to play off their screw up by
    distracting
    us with the racism hand, when the other hand is holding their combine incompetence for not verifying the facts before roasting Shirley alive.

    I too didn’t see the Gorilla the first time I saw this video a few years ago and didn’t notice the curtain change this time. Yahoo had some puzzles posted on the main page and one that is truly enlightening to our malleable perspective is the "Rotating Pussy". I found this illusion before reading the story and have been working the Pussy for sometime now with great enjoyment. The trick is to use your peripheral vision.

    Optical Illusion “Rotating Pussy”

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 1:04am

    Re: The Pussy switch

    Yahoo had some puzzles posted on the main page and one that is truly enlightening to our malleable perspective is the "Rotating Pussy".

    Take a look at Techdirt's default silhouette avatar (for example, see Mr. Block, above). Is the figure facing towards you or away from from you? With some practice, you may be able to perceive it either way.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 1:10am

    Distractions

    People have limits as to how many things they can really pay attention to at once. If you're distracted by following the balls, you might miss the gorilla. The same thing happens to people talking on cell phones while driving.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 4:08am

    This reminds me of a dialogue from the Discworld game, I don't remember very well how it went but it was something like this:

    Wizard: My advice to you is that you should always expect the unexpected.
    Rincewind: But how can it be unexpected if I am always expecting it?
    Wizard: Good point. Then my advice to you is to always expect the expected.

     

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    senshikaze (profile), Jul 24th, 2010 @ 5:23am

    Re:

    You know, I know this site has a lot to do with how badly the recording companies are hurting the music industry, but not every article has anything to do with it . These are cool experiments.
    Get over yourself.

     

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  16.  
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    Gozza, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 6:46am

    Bad experiment.
    We're talking about language (or only semantics) as much as perception when we say: "an unexpected event".

    An event, or occurence, is not the gradual change of a colour (which was painfully obvious I might add), this is as much an event as are the patterns of shadow changing on the ground because of moving clouds. No we don't generally describe this as an event.

    The person leaving could be seen as an event (didn't see it the first time), but it has no influence over the proceedings.

    A gorilla stepping into the group is something of a completely different magnitude.

    "Notice changes" would be a better description for what happens instead of "notice unexpected events", which is misleading.

    The guy asking for directions switcharoo has been done by about every candid camera show ever. So that's hardly worth a mention... in fact, most of invisible gorilla's work I find very uninspired.

    By comparison, the little whodunnit video (at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubNF9QNEQLA) is an amazing example of what human perception can miss.

     

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  17.  
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    PrimeSonic, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 7:23am

    An audio analogy

    You're in a room full of 50 dozen people, you're asked to hold a conversation with the person in front of you. Then, after you leave, you're asked to retell about the conversation the person half-way across the room was having.
    Since you could technically "hear" them, then why couldn't you remember what they were talking about?

    These "awareness" tests are a bunch of bull. They simply show how we humans process information selectively so as to not become overwhelmed by it. The room full of people having conversations is no different that looking at the team passing the ball and then the gorilla shows up. Sight is no different than sound in this respect when it comes to information.

    There is no way you can become more "aware" so that you'd perceive every minute change around you. And even if you could somehow be altered to be that "aware" you'd be unable to function normally due to all the sensory overload you'd be trying to cope with.

    These guys are showing a well done experiment but draw stupid conjectures from them.

     

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  18.  
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    Richard Corsale (profile), Jul 24th, 2010 @ 8:12am

    ADHD

    See, this is how you know you have ADD :) The first thing that happened when the gorilla entered the screen. I stopped counting and looked at the ape. That... clearly has some evolutionary advantage. But not so much in this day and age :(

     

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  19.  
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    Josef, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Not quite getting it

    I don't think many people paid attention to the title of the test. It's a selective attention experiment.

    You are directed to focus your attention on a task and that is what causes you to miss obvious changes in the scene. If the instructions were changed then you could expect that more people would notice the "unexpected".

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 9:34am

    How this applies to patents

    This is interesting stuff. I think it applies to the obviousness question that frequently comes up with patents. Some missed the gorilla, some did not. But once you know about the gorilla then the gorilla is truly obvious. The same exact thing happens with patents, what is obvious today might not have been obvious yesterday.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    Re: Distractions

    Exactly, I had the same thought.

     

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  22.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Jul 24th, 2010 @ 9:58am

    Heh...

    I agree the article's title ruined the first video. I was actually looking for the gorilla the whole time.

    But when the second video was introduced, I knew there was something else going to come of it. Oddly enough, a tall blonde wearing black was just too damn good looking to stop looking at, and I watched as she left the game completely unrelated to the test at hand.

    The third video I've seen before, so it wasn't a surprise to see the outcome. The 50% was the bigger surprise. This number has grown in the 20 years since I last saw the test.

    I guess in today's world, if it's not electronically given to people, it's worthless to pay attention to it. Just like driving. Why care about other drivers when there are so many other gadgets one can play with while driving.

    Oh well. I'm sure when I die, my casket will pop up 2 message boxes asking if it's okay to really bury the box, come with malware protection so my bones don't rot away faster, and my tombstone will read "To read the text for this marker, please visit the nearest app store and pay $1.99 to view it. Oh, and it's copyright, bitches!"

     

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  23.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jul 24th, 2010 @ 10:52am

    Invisible Gorilla

    The question is, do the people who don't notice lack perception, or do the people who do notice lack the ability to focus? I think the latter.
    Einstein was often "dinged" for perpetually not noticing things, such as, "get off the train here to go home". I submit he did more than the people who always got off at the right station.

     

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  24.  
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    Rob, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 10:57am

    None of this really surprises me

    What's the point? I understand this is interesting from a scientific point of view and kind of fun to learn about, but so what. Perhaps it's more of a surprise that 50% actually noticed the changes.

    An interesting corollary is that once you have a belief you will notice evidence that supports that belief but fail to notice evidence which refutes it. I think we see that kind of thing in the comments on this site a lot.

    And I notice that I do this all the time, so I'm not just talking about people I don't agree with. It goes for the people I do agree with ... and me too. Realizing this lets me be slightly more objective, I think.

     

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  25.  
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    SeanG, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 12:14pm

    In a similar vein, I love Richard Wiseman's card trick video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voAntzB7EwE

     

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  26.  
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    Fsm, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 4:09pm

    I noticed that the girls in black had much nicer asses than the girls in white...

     

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  27.  
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    Lyle, Jul 24th, 2010 @ 8:17pm

    Its this seeing what you expect that leads to some motorcycle/auto and bicycle/auto accidents. They driver says " I never saw ...". He/She did not see because they were not expecting to see it. (This is why bicyclists wear bright colors as they stand out). Its the same thing in economics, the black swans were there but not seen. Its a well known problem with our perception in a lot of areas. Recall cant see forest for trees...

     

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  28.  
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    Wade, Jul 25th, 2010 @ 3:04am

    Always amazed

    I am always amazed at what most people will miss, very few people are situationally aware and most pay little attention to their environment. Many times way they are easy victims of crimes as well.

     

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  29.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Jul 25th, 2010 @ 3:50am

    Re:

    On the second one I noticed the black shirted player leave, but I didn't notice the curtain changing color at all.

     

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  30.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jul 25th, 2010 @ 11:08am

    I noticed the color change but I thought it was a video glitch...

    I did miss the player leaving tho.

     

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  31.  
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    Joel Coehoorn, Jul 25th, 2010 @ 11:24am

    The real lesson here is to know what it is you're focusing on. Everyone is focused on something, and because of this everyone has blind spots. You need to know where your focus is so that when someone tells you there's a gorilla in the room you'll know how to unfocus and spot it.

     

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  32.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 25th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: I almost got it.

    "I think you'd spot it the second time through even without an explanation, you wouldn't be concentrating on counting the passes then."

    Ah, but what if the second time they told you to count the black player passes?

     

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  33.  
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    Richard (profile), Jul 26th, 2010 @ 1:52am

    Magicians

    Magicians have known about this for centuries. It is called misdirection. The examples in the videos are not particularly good ones. A 50% success rate would not be adequate for a professional magician.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2010 @ 10:27am

    I didn't actually notice that the color of the curtain changed but I noticed that one of the white players appeared to have different colored pants

     

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  35.  
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    DB, Jul 26th, 2010 @ 1:02pm

    I sort of cheated and did not try to count the passes. I was expecting something more subtle like maybe the players shirts colors changing.
    Almost missed the gorilla, even though I knew it would happen at some point. Did catch the person leaving. Missed the curtain color change.

     

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  36.  
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    Matthew Stinar (profile), Jul 27th, 2010 @ 1:29am

    Re: Where's the controversy?

    And I'm so used to Techdirt commenters ridiculing every one of Mike's posts like it was a sport that I was surprised to find positive and engaged readers.

    To your point, however, I'm sure there's someone out there who can figure out how to abuse the system to suppress this research. Perhaps a bogus DMCA takedown or other claims of IP infringement?

     

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  37.  
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    freak (profile), Mar 22nd, 2011 @ 4:05pm

    Re: How this applies to patents

    I don't think this has anything to do with obviousness in the least.

    Misdirection is a completely different thing than hindsight, and patent examiners have many more times to look over everything.
    If you were show the video twice, even with the part explaining the gorilla taken out, I think pretty much everyone would catch the gorilla.

    There are many, many ways this analogy fails horribly.

     

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