Gorillas in our Midst - what it means

By Vicki Mozo



What's up with the gorilla on a basketball court perception test? If you have tried taking this test, you may find it quite amusing, especially when you are one of the many who failed to notice the gorilla in the video. Does it mean anything? Learn about the implication of the basketball gorilla test and find out if failure to perceive the gorilla is something to worry about.



What the test is about?

The test is a basketball video showing two teams, one in white and the other in black. Each of the team has a ball passing it around to their team members. The initial instruction is to count the number of times the players in white would pass the ball around. The viewer who is intently viewing the video might cite fifteen, which is the correct answer. However, the test is actually not just about counting the total passes made but if the viewer is able to perceive the man in black gorilla suit passing by. He even stopped in the midst and beat his chest, and then walked out. The video lasted 45 seconds whereas the "gorilla" was in the video for about nine seconds.


Man in Gorilla suit
[Image credit: by thisisbossi of Flickr.com]

What the test means

It was a short video and yet it can be a chagrining experience to any person who failed to see the gorilla. Thus, it is understandable when a person would feel flabbergasted after realizing that there was indeed a gorilla in the video but missed it. Should it be enough to make you feel incompetent for your "perceptual" shortcoming?

The gorilla video was a collaborative study by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. It was made to perfectly demonstrate "inattentional blindness". It is the term used to describe the phenomenon of not being able to perceive things although they are just right in front of your eyes. This explains why we tend to miss seeing crucial details and why we might be biased with our perceptual experience. We are inclined to select things we want to see. It's called selective attention. Thus, believing that we see everything may only be an illusion we play in our head.

Should you be alarmed?

About half of the subjects who viewed the video said they failed to notice the gorilla. Thus, you shouldn’t feel botched, inferior, or incompetent if you also failed to perceive the gorilla. In stead of feeling sorry about it, you should use it to increase your awareness of your perceptional limitations and perhaps you may find something to improve in this regard.




Simons, D. (profsimons). (2010, Mar 10). YouTube - ‪selective attention test‬‏ . YouTube.
Retrieved July 8, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo


To cite (APA-style):

Mozo, V. (2011, Jul 8). Gorillas in our midst - what it means. Biology-Online.org.
Retrieved from http://www.biology-online.org

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide information and individual opinion of the author (and not of the site). Any information contained in this article should not be used to replace professional or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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