Chris Chabris on Gorillas, Illusions, and the Things We Miss

Chris Chabris

Psychologist and neuroscientist Chris Chabris studies the numerous ways our intuitions fool us. Chabris is the co-creator of the famous “gorilla experiment” and author of The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us. He explores six “everyday illusions” that demonstrate the mistaken beliefs that we all hold about how our minds work.

For example, Chabris says that we often suffer from an “illusion of attention,” thinking that we see the world as it really is when in fact we are making all kinds of assumptions that shape how we perceive the real world. We also tend to have too much confidence in our own skills and abilities, and the least skilled tend to be the most overconfident. Another illusion that Chabris discusses is the illusion of cause: we tend to inaccurately connect cause and effect, when what really exists is accident or correlation.

You can also try a few of the experiments discussed in Chabris’ book.

In this video, try to count the number of passes made by the team in white.

Did you see anything unusual when you watched this video? Chabris says that just knowing something unexpected will happen doesn’t mean the viewer will see the unexpected.

This experiment illustrates something Chabris calls the “illusion of memory,” namely that we can be unaware of critical changes in our experiences. For example, about half of the people offering directions never realized that the person to whom they were giving the directions had in fact changed while the door passed passed between them.

For more experiments like these, check out theinvisiblegorilla.com.

(Photo credit: Kris Krüg)

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