Friday, January 14, 2005

The Gorilla Game

Yesterday afternoon, Gloria was in the bathroom when Eli 3.5 woke up early from his nap. He came into the living room and crawled onto the couch next to me. When Gloria came out of the bathroom, she looked at me but didn't see Eli--because she wasn't expecting him to be up so early. That reminded me of a study I'd read about a few months ago concerning "inattentional blindness." Here's an excerpt from the paper (

The video shows actors in white or black shirts passing a ball amongst themselves, all the while moving in a seemingly random intertwined pattern. the subjects are given the task of counting the numbers of aerial and bounced ball passes between actors in white shirts. This task consequently holds the attention of the subject. Shortly after the video begins, an additional actor in a black gorilla suit walks on screen, beats its chest in the midst of the moving actors and occasional ball passes, and walks off screen shortly before the video ends. Amazingly, many of the subjects given the task of counting the number of ball passes are completely unaware of the gorilla, unable to remember or even give vague reports of the ape sighting.

Well, now that I read it, that wasn't why Gloria didn't see Eli, but damn it, I thought so at the time. So I told Eli about the people who didn't see the man in the gorilla suit, and he thought it was hilarious. He jumped off the couch and said "Now I'll be the gorilla and you don't see me." Then he started doing laps around the couch, and every time I stared past him, he'd start laughing. Finally, on about his sixth lap, I shook my head and shouted "What the...? A GORILLA?" That made him pass out on the couch in laughter. He calls it "The Gorilla Game."

Today, I found the actual video used in the study: I showed it to Eli 3.5 and now he stops on each lap to beat his chest like the "gorilla" in the video. And I pretend not to see him.

I've said it before--just another normal day. In our house.

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