another 'invisible gorilla' anecdote

I’ve had a little hiatus from posting for the past month as I worked to start up the ionpsych blog for my graduate seminar on speaking and writing for a general audience (check out the site, by the way — some terrific posts about psychology and the mind/brain). I hope to post a bit more frequently over the coming weeks. Lots of really interesting science to write about.

In the meantime, here is an interesting anecdote sent in from a reader about a personal “invisible gorilla.” (for other examples, see my earlier posts here, and here and here. Check the comments for other examples from readers). It illustrates how we see what we expect to see.

I was out shopping with my 3 children all under the age of 6. After gathering all items on the shopping list we headed to the checkout. As a parent you continually check the children and all were in tow. I placed 2 items from the trolley onto the counter. I then turned around and the youngest had gone. In today‚Äôs society this is a slightly anxious moment for any parent. In a slight panic I ran to the first aisle, but he was not there. As I was heading down to the second aisle a lady came round the corner carrying a child, the child was not screaming or struggling, so I went to continue moving down the next aisle. I had to physically stop myself and double check if this was my child….unreal………..as I was looking at the child my mind was still focused on finding my child running.

Scary part of this invisible gorilla, I was looking for my child who was running away, not being carried by another person in a calm manner. If there had been additional variables it is very understandable how someone could miss something in front of them, even when looking directly at what they are looking for.

Has anything like that happened to you? Have you ever looked right at something and not seen it for what it is? If so, I’d love to hear about it (in the comments or by email).

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