Title : The Invisible Gorilla
Authors : Christopher Chabris, Daniel Simons
Publication Year : 2010
Published by : Crown Publishers
Number of Pages : 246 (excluding Notes and Index)
The Invisible Gorilla (2010) by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons is an exploration into some of the greatest illusions that have become an integral part of our lives. I am not talking about Houdini, but the everyday illusions that have an impact on what we do without our direct awareness to them.
If you are wondering why the authors would name their book after what appears to be a pompous hyperbole, it is because Chabris and Simons, as professor and teaching assistant in 2000, conducted an experiment that involved an “invisible” person in a gorilla suit. In 2004, they received a Nobel Prize in psychology for this seemingly trivial, but highly insightful, study. For fear that I may have already given too much away, you should really try the experiment out yourself before reading on (www.theinvisiblegorilla.com).
The book is sprinkled with stories and studies like this that demonstrate the limitations of some of our intuitions. The authors expand on six everyday illusions – the illusion of attention, memory, confidence, knowledge, cause and potential, and each is explained with memorable examples. For instance, the illusion of knowledge is that we mistake knowing how to work something for knowing how something works. It's a bit hard to wrap your head around first, but just consider – do you think you can explain how a toilet works? Sure, you say. Now, actually try explaining how the toilet functions, step by step. Not so easy. But don't worry – I experience the illusion of knowledge every time I write, and it is what encourages me to keep researching.
Overall, The Invisible Gorilla is a thought-provoking read. The examples are funny (including one about The Simpsons), easy to remember and comprehensive, though I am sure that there are many other illusions out there for us to be unaware of. Some illusions are trivial (I am sure we won't have to worry about seeing a gorilla on a basketball court anytime soon), but some can mean the difference between whether a person is prosecuted for a crime they did not commit. The Invisible Gorilla is highly recommended for psychology lovers, people who have read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (you will enjoy the contrast) and essentially everyone, because we are human and as humans, we are flawed.
Chabris, C.; Simons, D. (2010) The Invisible Gorilla. New York: Crown Publishers.