Take the Invisible Gorilla Test (and Understand Your Selective Attention)

We might think we see everything around us, but a study called Invisible Gorilla Test tells us a different story. You can take the test here and find out how your attention can shape your reality.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
– Winston S. Churchill

You’ve probably heard of a study called Invisible Gorilla Test.

Created by two psychologists, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, it’s one of the best-known experiments about understanding our selective attention.

If you haven’t, here’s your chance to take the test: it’s a brief video clip.

When you’re ready, press play and count how many times the players wearing the white shirts pass the basketball.

selective attention test

Have you guessed the correct passes?

And did you see the gorilla? 

According to the study, half of the people who watched the video and counted the passes missed the gorilla.

It’s mind boggling how we could miss a full-sized gorilla thumping its chest appearing for 8 seconds, isn’t it?

(I missed it too when I first watched this video years ago.)

What this experiment tells us is that as much as we want to believe we see everything around us, the reality is we don’t.

We only see what we choose to see and shape our perception based on narrow vision, not the actual world as they are.

And what’s more important to me is this:

Once you see the gorilla, you can’t unsee it.

It’s impossible to block out the gorilla from your sight once you know it’s there, even if you missed it the first time.

Watch the video again: you’ll see what I mean.

Often, Tragedy in Life Plays Out This Way

From stories we read and hear, we know life-changing events such as divorce, illness or unemployment can devastate us, but it’s likely to be just “someone else’s stories”.

… until it suddenly becomes our reality and hits us in full force.

Now all we see and think about is the once invisible threat – dwindling bank balance, a cheating spouse or debilitating illness – becoming our reality and sucking the life out of us.

The Virus Gorilla Today: COVID-19

COVID-19 has recently become everyone’s gorilla in the western countries.

When people on the other side of the planet were battling through the virus, frantically trying to contain it, we ignored it.

Or observed with a mild curiosity how it would pan out.

No one predicted how quickly it would become our story, too. And now it’s all we think about, hear about, read about and talk about.

A vast amount of media coverage and abundant information makes us impossible to unsee the virus.

Constantly reminding us how fragile our life is, how vulnerable we are, and how the invasion of the virus has changed the way we live in a way we’ve never imagined or experienced before.

Life is no longer the way we know it.

Making the Virus Gorilla Bigger?

Now the pandemic getting all our attention, have you ever wondered what else you might be unseeing right now?

Like many people, I’ve never paid so much attention to the death toll until this pandemic.

People die every day. You don’t let mortality get to you living your life. You don’t certainly think about it or talk about it all the time.

Why should we?

Talking or thinking about it doesn’t change the fact: the natural course of human life.

Yet, the pandemic suddenly made me super sensitive about mortality: I’d keenly look up the current death toll. Utter OMG. Let out an involuntary shiver. And imagine just how bad it’s going to get…

It started as a morbid curiosity and then became a daily habit.

Then came realisation.

I was making already a full size gorilla even bigger! And doing so made everything else become invisible or tiny, such as…

The Hope Gorilla

The virus appears to stay here for a while.

We can’t change that except helping reduce the spread by social distancing.

But we don’t need to make our life all about the virus, despite how it has changed the way we live.

It’s a matter of time that human spirit, resilience and collective effort in developing a vaccine will see us through this latest threat to our existence.

Believing so, we feed the hope gorilla while minimising the virus gorilla in our mind.

And nurturing the hope gorilla makes our bumpy journey a little easier, lighter and more productive.

Final Thoughts

The hope gorilla and the virus gorilla coexist, vying for our attention.

And your very attention makes one gorilla bigger than the other.

And the size matters as it influences how you feel: your heart palpates with anxiety, fear and uncertainty or remains calm in anticipation and hope for a better tomorrow.

Those emotions affect how you behave as simple as stockpile, overeat, and oversleep, or double down on healthy regimen.

Be mindful of your selective attention. 

Nurture the hope gorilla every day. It’ll enable you to see the opportunity even in this challenging time and make the most of what you have and more.

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