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The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us

Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us
Christopher Chabris

Daniel Simons

If a gorilla walked out into the middle of a basketball pitch, you’d notice it. Wouldn’t you? If a serious violent crime took place just next to you, you’d remember it, right? The Invisible Gorilla is a fascinating look at the unbelievable, yet routine tricks that your brain plays on you.In an award-winning and groundbreaking study, psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons asked volunteers to watch a 60-second film of a group of students playing basketball and told them to count the number of passes made. About halfway through, a woman dressed head to toe in a gorilla outfit slowly moved to centre screen, beat her chest at the camera, and casually strolled away. Unbelievably, almost half of the volunteers missed the gorilla.As this astonishing and utterly unique book demonstrates, exactly the same kind of mental illusion that causes people to miss the gorilla can also explain why many other things, including why:• honest eyewitness testimony can convict innocent defendants• expert money managers suddenly lose billions• Homer Simpson has much to teach you about clear thinkingInsightful, witty, and fascinating, The Invisible Gorilla closely examines the false impressions that most profoundly influence our lives and gives practical advice on how we can minimize their negative impact.

The Invisible Gorilla

And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us

Christopher Chabris

& Daniel Simons

Table of Contents

Cover Page (#u31ce126e-8bfe-515a-b6a7-9fac8014c3a9)

Title Page (#u40644a62-7157-5655-9273-adfe3ef5a800)

INTRODUCTION everyday illusions (#ucc3c34bc-6c2a-5948-b643-0bb5e67d5254)

CHAPTER 1 “i think i would have seen that” (#ufef584c8-71bf-5bf9-88a8-a2f95103d6aa)

CHAPTER 2 the coach who choked (#u189e1d98-292a-50e0-bfbf-236cefaebc9a)

CHAPTER 3 what smart chess players and stupid criminals have in common (#litres_trial_promo)

CHAPTER 4 should you be more like a weather forecaster or a hedge fund manager? (#litres_trial_promo)

CHAPTER 5 jumping to conclusions (#litres_trial_promo)

CHAPTER 6 get smart quick! (#litres_trial_promo)

conclusion the myth of intuition (#litres_trial_promo)

NOTES (#litres_trial_promo)

INDEX (#litres_trial_promo)

Acknowledgments (#litres_trial_promo)

More Praise for the INVISIBLE GORILLA (#litres_trial_promo)

Copyright (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

INTRODUCTION everyday illusions (#ulink_e4215b0c-6a7c-59ff-8dff-2dca360aad36)

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”

—Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (1750)

ABOUT TWELVE YEARS AGO, we conducted a simple experiment with the students in a psychology course we were teaching at Harvard University. To our surprise, it has become one of the best-known experiments in psychology. It appears in textbooks and is taught in introductory psychology courses throughout the world. It has been featured in magazines such as Newsweek and The New Yorker and on television programs, including Dateline NBC. It has even been exhibited in the Exploratorium in San Francisco and in other museums. The experiment is popular because it reveals, in a humorous way, something unexpected and deep about how we see our world—and about what we don’t see.

You’ll read about our experiment in the first chapter of this book. As we’ve thought about it over the years, we’ve realized that it illustrates a broader principle about how the mind works. We all believe that we are capable of seeing what’s in front of us, of accurately remembering important events from our past, of understanding the limits of our knowledge, of properly determining cause and effect. But these intuitive beliefs are often mistaken ones that mask critically important limitations on our cognitive abilities.

We must be reminded not to judge a book by its cover because we take outward appearances to be accurate advertisements of inner, unseen qualities. We need to be told that a penny saved is a penny earned because we think about cash coming in differently from money we already have. Aphorisms like these exist largely to help us avoid the mistakes that intuition can cause. Likewise, Benjamin Franklin’s observation about extremely hard things suggests that we should question the intuitive belief that we understand ourselves well. As we go through life, we act as though we know how our minds work and why we behave the way we do. It is surprising how often we really have no clue.

The Invisible Gorilla is a book about six everyday illusions that profoundly influence our lives: the illusions of attention, memory, confidence, knowledge, cause, and potential. These are distorted beliefs we hold about our minds that are not just wrong, but wrong in dangerous ways. We will explore when and why these illusions affect us, the consequences they have for human affairs, and how we can overcome or minimize their impact.

We use the word “illusions” as a deliberate analogy to visual illusions like M. C. Escher’s famous never-ending staircase: Even after you realize that something about the picture as a whole is not right, you still can’t stop yourself from seeing each individual segment as a proper staircase. Everyday illusions are similarly persistent: Even after we know how our beliefs and intuitions are flawed, they remain stubbornly resistant to change. We call them everyday illusions because they affect our behavior literally every day. Every time we talk on a cell phone while driving, believing we’re still paying enough attention to the road, we’ve been affected by one of these illusions. Every time we assume that someone who misremembers their past must be lying, we’ve succumbed to an illusion. Every time we pick a leader for a team because that person expresses the most confidence, we’ve been influenced by an illusion. Every time we start a new project convinced that we know how long it will take to complete, we are under an illusion. Indeed, virtually no realm of human behavior is untouched by everyday illusions.

As professors who design and run psychology experiments for a living, we’ve found that the more we study the nature of the mind, the more we see the impact of these illusions in our own lives. You can develop the same sort of x-ray vision into the workings of your own mind. When you finish this book, you will be able to glimpse the man behind the curtain and some of the tiny gears and pulleys that govern your thoughts and beliefs. Once you know about everyday illusions, you will view the world differently and think about it more clearly. You will see how illusions affect your own thoughts and actions, as well as the behavior of everyone around you. And you will recognize when journalists, managers, advertisers, and politicians—intentionally or accidentally—take advantage of illusions in an attempt to obfuscate or persuade. Understanding everyday illusions will lead you to recalibrate the way you approach your life to account for the limitations—and the true strengths—of your mind. You might even come up with ways to exploit these insights for fun and profit. Ultimately, seeing through the veils that distort how we perceive ourselves and the world will connect you—for perhaps the first time—with reality.

CHAPTER 1 “i think i would have seen that” (#ulink_59863da2-846b-5e42-96e7-bfa6e228e675)

AROUND TWO O’CLOCK on the cold, overcast morning of January 25, 1995, a group of four black men left the scene of a shooting at a hamburger restaurant in the Grove Hall section of Boston.

(#litres_trial_promo) As they drove away in a gold Lexus, the police radio erroneously announced that the victim was a cop, leading officers from several districts to join in a ten-mile high-speed chase. In the fifteen to twenty minutes of mayhem that ensued, one police car veered off the road and crashed into a parked van. Eventually the Lexus skidded to a stop in a cul-de-sac on Woodruff Way in the Mattapan neighborhood. The suspects fled the car and ran in different directions.

One suspect, Robert “Smut” Brown III, age twenty-four, wearing a dark leather jacket, exited the back passenger side of the car and sprinted toward a chain-link fence on the side of the cul-de-sac. The first car in pursuit, an unmarked police vehicle, stopped to the left of the Lexus. Michael Cox, a decorated officer from the police antigang unit who’d grown up in the nearby Roxbury area, got out of the passenger seat and took off after Brown. Cox, who also is black, was in plainclothes that night; he wore jeans, a black hoodie, and a parka.


Cox got to the fence just after Smut Brown. As Brown scrambled over the top, his jacket got stuck on the metal. Cox reached for Brown and tried to pull him back, but Brown managed to fall to the other side. Cox prepared to scale the fence in pursuit, but just as he was starting to climb, his head was struck from behind by a blunt object, perhaps a baton or a flashlight. He fell to the ground. Another police officer had mistaken him for a suspect, and several officers then beat up Cox, kicking him in the head, back, face, and mouth. After a few moments, someone yelled, “Stop, stop, he’s a cop, he’s a cop.” At that point, the officers fled, leaving Cox lying unconscious on the ground with facial wounds, a concussion, and kidney damage.


Meanwhile, the pursuit of the suspects continued as more cops arrived. Early on the scene was Kenny Conley, a large, athletic man from South Boston who had joined the police force four years earlier, not long after graduating from high school. Conley’s cruiser came to a stop about forty feet away from the gold Lexus. Conley saw Smut Brown scale the fence, drop to the other side, and run. Conley followed Brown over the fence, chased him on foot for about a mile, and eventually captured him at gunpoint and handcuffed him in a parking lot on River Street. Conley wasn’t involved in the assault on Officer Cox, but he began his pursuit of Brown right as Cox was being pulled from the fence, and he scaled the fence right next to where the beating was happening.

Although the other murder suspects were caught and that case was considered solved, the assault on Officer Cox remained wide open. For the next two years, internal police investigators and a grand jury sought answers about what happened at the cul-de-sac. Which cops beat Cox? Why did they beat him? Did they simply mistake their black colleague for one of the black suspects? If so, why did they flee rather than seek medical help? Little headway was made, and in 1997, the local prosecutors handed the matter over to federal authorities so they could investigate possible civil rights violations.

Cox named three officers whom he said had attacked him that night, but all of them denied knowing anything about the assault. Initial police reports said that Cox sustained his injuries when he slipped on a patch of ice and fell against the back of one of the police cars. Although many of the nearly sixty cops who were on the scene must have known what happened to Cox, none admitted knowing anything about the beating. Here, for example, is what Kenny Conley, who apprehended Smut Brown, said under oath:

Q: So your testimony is that you went over the fence within seconds of seeing him go over the fence?

A: Yeah.

Q: And in that time, you did not see any black plainclothes police officer chasing him?

A: No, I did not.

Q: In fact, no black plainclothes officer was chasing him, according to your testimony?

A: I did not see any black plainclothes officer chasing him.

Q: And if he was chasing him, you would have seen it?

A: I should have.

Q: And if he was holding the suspect as the suspect was at the top of the fence, he was lunging at him, you would have seen that, too?

A: I should have.

When asked directly if he would have seen Cox trying to pull Smut Brown from the fence, he responded, “I think I would have seen that.” Conley’s terse replies suggested a reluctant witness who had been advised by lawyers to stick to yes or no answers and not volunteer information. Since he was the cop who had taken up the chase, he was in an ideal position to know what happened. His persistent refusal to admit to having seen Cox effectively blocked the federal prosecutors’ attempt to indict the officers involved in the attack, and no one was ever charged with the assault.

The only person ever charged with a crime in the case was Kenny Conley himself. He was indicted in 1997 for perjury and obstruction of justice. The prosecutors were convinced that Conley was “testilying”—outlandishly claiming, under oath, not to have seen what was going on right before his eyes. According to this theory, just like the officers who filed reports denying any knowledge of the beating, Conley wouldn’t rat out his fellow cops. Indeed, shortly after Conley’s indictment, prominent Boston-area investigative journalist Dick Lehr wrote that “the Cox scandal shows a Boston police code of silence…a tight inner circle of officers protecting themselves with false stories.”


Kenny Conley stuck with his story, and his case went to trial. Smut Brown testified that Conley was the cop who arrested him. He also said that after he dropped over the fence, he looked back and saw a tall white cop standing near the beating. Another police officer also testified that Conley was there. The jurors were incredulous at the notion that Conley could have run to the fence in pursuit of Brown without noticing the beating, or even seeing Officer Cox. After the trial, one juror explained, “It was hard for me to believe that, even with all the chaos, he didn’t see something.” Juror Burgess Nichols said that another juror had told him that his father and uncle had been police officers, and officers are taught “to observe everything” because they are “trained professionals.”


Unable to reconcile their own expectations—and Conley’s—with Conley’s testimony that he didn’t see Cox, the jury convicted him. Kenny Conley was found guilty of one count each of perjury and obstruction of justice, and he was sentenced to thirty-four months in jail.

(#litres_trial_promo) In 2000, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case, he was fired from the Boston police force. While his lawyers kept him out of jail with new appeals, Conley took up a new career as a carpenter.
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