I heard a story on NPR this morning about radiologists, trained to search for the smallest of irregularities in a scan, missing a gorilla that was superimposed on a slide of a lung. 83% of radiologists failed to note the gorilla. The effect is called “inattentional blindness”. The news story gave this explanation:
This wasn’t because the eyes of the radiologists didn’t happen to fall on the large, angry gorilla. Instead, the problem was in the way their brains had framed what they were doing. They were looking for cancer nodules, not gorillas, so “they look right at it, but because they’re not looking for a gorilla, they don’t see that it’s a gorilla.”
I looked up the image on NPR’s website and even though I knew I was looking for a gorilla, I failed to see it at first. I didn’t expect it to be that obvios. The idea for the radiologist study came from an experiment in the field of attention research, called The Invisible Gorilla Study. Here is a task performed in that original study:
Are you among the 50% of people who missed the man in the gorilla suit walking through the group of basket ball players? I saw it, but I am wondering if I would have without expecting to see it. My brain was expecting the unexpected, so of course I noticed it.
Inside the box, there are no gorillas
The radiologists and the test subjects watching the video were thinking “inside the box”. As was I when I looked at the lung scan for the first time. We, who see ourselves as “the creative people”, take pride in being able to “think outside the box” (although we may have wittier expressions for it). But is that always true? Read more