My Perception Blindness
We experience far less of our reality than we think we do.
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
You and I have a perceptual blindness of reality. We don’t see what we don’t pay attention to. Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, are the authors of the 2010 book, The Invisible Gorilla, and a now famous experiment where subjects were asked to observe two teams passing basketballs and to count the number of passes made by the players wearing white and ignore passes by players wearing black. Over 50 % of the observers failed to notice a person dressed as a gorilla walk on the court for 9 seconds in a one-minute video. I was one of the 50% that didn’t see the gorilla. The invisible gorilla can be a metaphor to help us realize that we don’t see part of reality because we are paying attention to something else. This is what we mean when we say: “What we see is not all there is.”
When I am observing something, I am observing some thing; I am not observing every thing. I am observing the players and not paying attention to the gorilla. When looking at a scene in my reality, I can ask myself: “What am I not paying attention to?” Am I paying attention to something so much I am missing something else?
Another visual impairment is when I don’t see what I don’t want to see, usually because of a personal belief bias. “The elephant in the room” (something everyone knows is there but nobody admits it) is another useful metaphor that helps me look for the part of my environment I am not seeing because I don’t want to see it. The elephant may not be a visible gorilla, but an idea, a topic or something that is avoided. I can sometimes believe something but pretend it doesn’t exist in order not to consider it or discuss it. Or I may conveniently forget it.
These metaphors are part of my illumination strategies for making me aware of my visual impairments in my incomplete way of seeing things when I observe part of my reality. Am I missing seeing the gorilla? Is there an elephant in the room I am ignoring? You and I probably both have some perception blindness.
How do you monitor the way you see things? Are you aware that what you see is not all there is? Can you identify some gorillas and elephants in your way of seeing?