The Invisible Gorilla

Dan Simons and Christopher Chabris describe an aspect of human perception known as ‘inattentional blindness’. In the best known version of the experiment, volunteers were told to keep track carefully of how many times basketball players tossed the ball. While they did this, someone in a gorilla suit walked across the court in plain view, yet many of the volunteers failed to notice the beast. What the invisible gorilla study shows is that, if we are paying very close attention to one thing, we can fail to notice very obvious things in front of our noses.


Reading this book will make you doubt yourself. The authors use remarkable stories and counter-intuitive scientific findings to demonstrate an important truth, namely, our minds don’t work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but a lot is being filtered out and re-configured for functional reasons. Our working assumption is that the world is straightforwardly there in front of us. We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We’re sure we know where we were on 9/11, falsely believing that vivid memories are seared into our minds with perfect fidelity. The authors have no trouble in showing these assumptions to be wrong.


The Invisible Gorilla reveals the myriad ways our intuitions deceive us, but it’s not merely a catalogue of human frailty. Chabris and Simons explain why we succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects. Ultimately, the book provides a kind of x-ray vision into our own minds, making it possible to pierce the veil of illusions that clouds our  everyday perception and to think scientifically beyond them.


Check if this intriguing recent work in psychology is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at


320 pages in Harper Collins

First published 2010

ISBN  978-0007317295


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Christopher Chabris

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