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Old March 30, 2010, 03:08 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by pax
Someone who is serious about self-defense should give some serious thought to this factor, and consider training to cope with the unseen, unnoticed threat that "comes out of nowhere." Of course the threat that "comes out of nowhere" is actually a failure of awareness, but that's the point. Nobody is as continuously aware as we all wish we could be!
Interesting thing, perception. I did all the required reading for this post, and failed miserably. I was focused on where I thought I should be looking, and missed most of what was presented.

Here's my addition to this post, happened two nights ago. It's an interesting example of perception.

I was leaving the $1.99 theater with my brother at about 9:00pm after watching Sherlock Holmes (not a bad flick, but not for hard-core Sherlock Holmes fans). The sun was down, no moon, only parking lot lights. We're both unarmed.

We had parked on the far end of the lot and were walking towards the car, talking about the movie we had just seen, laughing about the differences in the stories and the movies.

About halfway down the parking lot, a young black male (not being racist, it does go to perceptions, I'm a white male, by the way) comes out about ten cars down running full tilt directly at us. My first thought? "It's really going down, isn't it?" My second thought? "I'm closest to this guy, so I'll tackle him and hopefully my brother can administer enough of a beating to stop him from killing/robbing us"

As I'm changing stance to tackle this guy, I notice he's running full out, like a track runner, not in an aggressive way, and he has nothing in his hands. He sees me, and changes course, blowing by me and heading to the theater lobby.

We keep walking, and see three other guys standing by a car, apparently this guy left his phone in the drink holder in his seat in the theater. They were talking about going to pick him up at the front of he theater.

Perceptions? I thought "it was going down". I recognized quickly enough that that wasn't the case. I didn't see the three other guys standing by the car, which would have been a problem had a crime actually been occurring.

This instance made me really think, had I been carrying, would I have drawn on this guy? If I had drawn on the guy, I certainly didn't know he had three friends backing him up a few cars down. What would have happened if this was really a crime and not just someone forgetting a phone?

I had already decided this guy was a threat, because of my perception of what I saw. I focused on the immediate "threat" and didn't realize that there were three more possible "threats" out there. I saw only what I "expected" and focused only on that.

In this case of the unseen, unnoticed "threat" that came out of nowhere, I may have had a couple of seconds to draw a weapon and fire. What of the unseen "accomplices" or the other movie patrons innocently walking to their cars?

The OP poses an interesting question, how to be ever vigilant without losing focus on the larger picture of the world around you?
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Old March 30, 2010, 06:33 AM   #27
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I can't watch the video but I've got a couple of comments anyway. The first is about drawing your pistol.

There haven't been all that many threads here about drawing your pistol. That is, just about the draw itself. I will admit that it is a difficult to write about, rather like trying to describe in print how to drive a car. It is about 95% practice, if not more. In any case, however, I wonder how much has entered our subconsciousness over the years from watch television and movies of people doing fast draw, usually from a Hollywood holster. I would be willing to bet that that picture was so strong that numbers of lawmen in the west in the 1950s and 60s actually wore such a rig with their Single Action Army. I'd say there is room for a lot of discussion here about drawing your pistol.

The other thing that comes to mind is this. I did a little fencing in college and while fencing is a theoretical combat sport, it bears about as much relation as does target shooting with your K38. I remember another student asking the instructor, "What do you watch." The question referring to what you should watch about your opponent in order to second guess his intentions. That is an important aspect of awareness when you're up close, though in fencing, just like in boxing, you only have one opponent. Unfortunately, real life is more like tag team wrestling.

The answer, by the way, was watch the eyes.
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Old April 16, 2010, 07:04 PM   #28
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Interesting post.

I live in a very low crime area and as with almost all those who come through my carry class are also likewise unaware of our surroundings as a rule.
To change our level of awareness would require some hard work that may cause use to actually stand out much more than would be appropriate. Kind of like when I do venture into the metro jungle that I am not at home in, to the point that when I had to get workups done at the transplant center my blood pressure was higher than normal. I told the staff when they were going to boot me from the donor list that I am not at home here in the city and that is why my press........ SO I was sent home with a B/P monitoring device and sure enough when back in my comfort zone my B/P was OK!
My brother was very happy about it also.
We live and then adapt to our surroundings. Yes I am more at risk of not seeing a threat than I should be, but that is how I choose to live.
Now when I have my family under my watch I pay much more attention and that in itself is very noticable, kind of like when I duck and weave through the city.
This thread will give me much background for my always updating power point presentation.
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Old April 28, 2010, 02:21 PM   #29
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The Human mind only has so much power to process information. If we want to utilize the power efficiently (say to survive) why then would we waste effort to remember every little stimulus we come across? If you’re driving cross country with your kids late at night and you notice a sketchy car that seems to be following you, are you going to kick yourself because you did not notice that the Carl’s Jr’s restaurants turned into Hardees restaurants? We specifically told ourselves what to look for and disregard other stimuli, and we accomplished that. This is an interesting example of a behavior that is probably beneficial to our survival (which may be obvious considering we exhibit it and we are a quite dominating species).
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Old April 28, 2010, 06:54 PM   #30
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Great post !! AKA " F-N COOL ! "

I love the psychology studies .....

Reading that last article made me think of the video 3 posts below :

Was that a car in the background ? House lights ? Street lights ?

Had you been driving by when that went down , would the policemen have had the consciousness to not continue firing ? ( 13 shots 1 hit target )

I could never blame him if he didn't. Imagining myself in that scenario I could see how completely easy that would be. I would hope his training would make him much better than I am at that perceptual recognition .... but I could totally understand if he didn't.

We had the same drills in our Hunter education class where we watched a video and were asked to answer if we could shoot or not at the end of each scenario......

95% of the class missed the other hunter running down the hill right behind the deer sprinting across the field.

Now my only response beyond that is that I failed terribly at all the video tests.

And secondly , couldn't the same be said for the " suggestive comments " ? In that we were TOLD in atleast one of the video's where to focus. We weren't allowed to just let our focus do what it would , but to specifically focus on a given object , thereby us dismissing the others from perception ( the Gorilla is the one I'm thinking about )

As another "Matrix" Reference ( as in one of those links ) Had they not told us to count the balls ...... Would we have missed the Gorilla ? ( when the oracle mentioned the flower pot ) Had they said " Watch this video and pick the most aggressive target " Would so many of us have failed ?

Had they said " Watch this video and tell me what you see" ? How many might have seen the Gorilla ?

In the second one we had camera tricks Zooming in and removing the "active" visual changes from our perception..... Had they showed the entire scene without zooming or camera angles changing .... How many of us would have seen an instant change in clothing ?

Very interesting concepts and alot of Valid points .... but both of those seem to be related to misdirection or lack of true availability to see the entire picture.

Last edited by Enoy21; April 28, 2010 at 07:47 PM.
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Old April 28, 2010, 07:37 PM   #31
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A couple more thoughts after reading through the replies.....

Here's a tip. Try to memorize the shoes. Criminals NEVER change their shoes.

Sounds stupid, but it works.
Absolutely true. This is how I was able to nail a guy on our security camera's that came back a second time dressed differently and carrying himself differently..... I saw that they were the exact same pair of shoes. Police nabbed him a few days later.

Also to the thoughts about license plates and clothing, noticing changes in appearance.

I used to pride myself in always seeing people I knew on the street by car and facial recognition. Now days I am mostly oblivious and in my own little world and thought process while focusing on driving.

I also still to this day am always the first to notice the change in a persons appearance. Hair style , Beard, Makeup etc ...... I don't notice shoes or anything else unless specifically focused on it. ( Although a hundred times I've tried to tell myself to try it so I can figure out who that is stanking up the company Bathroom next to me )

I am also the person that Never forgets a face but has a VERY hard time remembering names. To the point that there is a guy at the store near my work and we both have been trying to figure out where we know each other from for the past 6 months. I know his face , I recognize the sound of his voice associated with that face. No clue how I know him , from where or what his name was...

I drive my Fiance' nuts because in every movie we watch she hears me say " Hey ! He/She was in <insert> movie" Yet I can almost never know their names ....

So what does this say about my focus ? That because I focus on the visuals of the person and not the clothing .... and have a nack for it that I should spend more time focusing on the auditory and memory ? If I do so would I lose some of that visual implant ?

Very interesting topic...... Love it. Now to read more of the replies.
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Old April 28, 2010, 08:08 PM   #32
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I grew up in the woods at the foot of a mountain as my backyard. While I never did much gun hunting , me and my friends would be out for 10 ours a day in the summer in those woods.

He put into words something that I learned through the years..... But it still required Focus.

We might be focusing on seeing and following that leaf covered trail and only allowing our ears to listen for other sounds.

We might be playing " Army rangers" and would allow ourselves to fall back and focus on EVERYTHING.

Wide angle vision just looking for movement , Listening for every sound of a squirrel , dear , leaves , sticks falling etc...... heightened sense of awareness by constantly being on guard at all times....

To put it simply ..... "Hunting" Because that is exactly the skills used in hunting. Entire focus on your surroundings to the exclusion of every other thought in your life.

Dr Strangelove..... That's just Fight or flight mentality based on our perceptions of the situation... Unfortunately for all of us that's where Hesitation MAY be a good thing. So often it's not .... So often it is .....

( Sorry for the topic spam ..... Such an interesting thread and so many thoughts .... hard to combine them into a single post without a giant WOT ( Wall of text )

Last edited by Enoy21; April 28, 2010 at 08:14 PM.
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Old April 29, 2010, 08:40 PM   #33
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I'd say you just have to find that healthy balance between awareness and outright paranoia.
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Old April 30, 2010, 07:23 AM   #34
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New laws in effect all over the country, prohibiting peeps from driving with cell phones....why? Because for many people driving a car is 'enough'.

Ever seen peeps driving down the road at 30 mph, but the way they grip the wheel, intent stare, you would think they are doing 300 mph. They are right at the edge of thier abilities.

Read the series 'Twist of the Wrist', by Keith Code...a motorcycle instructor...he uses the analogy that we all start with a dollar of 'capability' the rain pours, speed get higher, cars all around...there is a place where you have used up .99 cents, and a cat jumping out in the road is 'too much'. A racer starts with $5, the new motorcycler starts with .25 cents....

In the animal world the 'aware' animal wins....and while there might be human limitations to our perceptions, how we think...we are all in the same is the bad guy, so is the super ninja homie...

There is no doubt some people take the concept of being 'aware and ready' to a point where they build a fort in the middle of nowhere so that while they sleep, they feel there is enough 'defense' around them to that they don't have to be 'on' all the time...we can all make our homes like home is set up so that someone has to 'break something' to get I will hear's not fool proof, but it gives me time.....

Anyway you cut it though...not all of us are the same intelligence, or have the same training, or genetic makeup...some peeps are walking around with no thought whatsoever to the dangers around them...others are spring loaded for super ninjas when walking the Pomeranian in a small town at the park.

While it's tough to be 'ready' all the can recognize 'when' to be ready...and 'how much' readiness is appropriate for the situation.
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Old May 20, 2010, 08:11 PM   #35
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I tend not to over intellectualize awareness. It is my intent to pay attn to what is happening around me. To that end, I make the effort to not allow myself to become distracted by events that are not happening in my moment. If I am leaving work and walking to my car, I do not think about work, phone calls or what items I may have left out on my desk... I think about what is happening in my moment where I am right now and what may happen in the next few seconds. All this being said, I certainly realize that I can not possibly notice and understand absolutelty everything that is happening 360 degees around, above and below me, and I dont try to. I Focus on what is possible and I find confort in the fact that I am not a walking zombie who tripped over the curb that he was walking towards for 5 min.
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Old May 21, 2010, 07:29 AM   #36
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Since my day is heavily scheduled and I start the morning off with computer stuff while drinking my coffee, I decided to address this one feature at a time.

I consider myself well aware of what is going on around the very least, condition yellow at most times. I paid close attention to the first video and counted 11, twice. The first run really amazed me as I was so focused on the task, I missed the obvious. On the second run, it was clearly visible and kicked myself hard for missing it the first time.

I will have to spend the rest of my day re-evaluating my situational awareness as it is not what I thought it was. There is always the outside possibility that I am still waking up but prefer not to use this as an excuse.

Excellent exercise. Thanks for posting it. I look forward to the rest of it.
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Old May 21, 2010, 09:00 AM   #37
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I'm beginning to think that all this business of being intensly aware of our surroundings, being prepared, ready to go, is a form of vanity. We might be guilty of inflating our value as a potential target, just like we all think we're too fat. We fall for anything that makes us think we're doing something about the problem.

I liked the thing about hunting and awareness, yet even wild animals aren't as aware as all that and I swear a human wouldn't make as much noise as a deer walking around in the woods in the middle of the night. Of course, the deer don't talk to one another and people don't root around in the leaves. Still, I've had two foxes walk up to within ten yards of me in the woods. Not one but two. They weren't as attentive as all that. City foxes, I suppose.

And by the way, for all their reputation, Ninjis did not rule Japan, nor for that matter did samauri. And as for building a fort before going to sleep at night, that's what the Roman army did when they encamped for the night and some of them are still there.
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Old May 21, 2010, 01:09 PM   #38
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It doesn't take much at all to increase your situational awareness to a point that you could/should recognize a threat. All it really means is looking at/for people when you're out in public.

For example, when I'm standing in line at Wendey's waiting to order a chicken sandwich, I glance around the restauruant and look at the people in it. I look at the people in line in front of me and behind me. Every now and then, while I'm eating, I'll quickly survey everyone in the restaurant.

Example 2: When walking down a busy street, I look to see who else is walking; who is just lingering around and who is behind me. It's easy to spot "trouble", if you open your eyes and look. Trouble struts around like he is not trying to get from point "A" to point "B", but instead, eyeballs everyone else within his reach, sizing up the situation.

The problem is that many folks don't like to look at people. I don't know if this is shyness, or trying to avoid being threatening or nosey by specifically looking at a person or group of people. So, they lower their head and make sure not to make any eye-contact with strangers. Personally, I like to look at people. I don't do it in a threatening manner, but once in a blue moon I will get some punk who asks "what are you looking at". That's a tip-off that you spotted someone you should be looking at. I generally don't respond, unless I think it's going to gain me some kind of advantage....but, I don't stop looking.
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Old May 21, 2010, 01:53 PM   #39
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You don't have to pay attention to everything, you just have to pay attention to people paying attention to YOU.

I have been in a couple of scary situations, where I had to pull a firearm on people, and in every case I saw it coming a mile away. Be aware of who is close enough to do you harm, and profile. That shifty character with the sideways shuffle does not have a lame leg, he is trying to get close to you without you noticing. Or those two gangbangers giving each other the eye, and then look at you, they just decided to make you a target. When you do see that kind of behaviour, act right away, let them know that you are on to them, it may just discourage them to go pick an easier target. And if they don't go away, get in their face, act bold and aggressive, and if you have to, threaten them with bodily harm and/or start pulling out your ccw piece. The real bad guys in society do not like to call the popo and bring attention to themselves.
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Old May 22, 2010, 03:52 PM   #40
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I thought the last two posts were especially good. It seems we are socialized not to look at people, or at least not too closely. That is, when they can see you doing so. Part of that comes from the pretence of being too busy, too much in a hurry or too important to gaze on the unwashed. Besides, that's how you cope when you see homeless people on the street that you wouldn't give the time of day to.

Children do not have that inhibition, I think, and leave it to them to comment on the ridiculous things about other people that you are too polite to even think about. At the same time they probably wouldn't pick up on things that could be significant from a defensive posture perspective.

Sometimes this studied and careful ignoring of other people goes a little too far. According to the local paper, some man died on the subway in Washington, D.C., and rode around for something like five hours before someone noticed.
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Old May 23, 2010, 06:00 PM   #41
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Most of the time I do my best to pay attention to what is going on around me. I do it without conciously thinking about it most times. When in public most of us have the glance other people over, and then tend to tune out the ambient things. Some things I learned early on were to apply the same principles to defending myself on the street as I did when I learned to box, and play foot ball. One rule is do not lock eyes for too long. It will take your attention away from the real threat. Some times we think we are being aware, and in truth we just distracted ourselvesTry to lock eyes with me in the boxing ring and I will probably break your ribs. Simpley put when you lock on the my eyes you are not paying attention to my hands. You will never see that lead right hooking uppercut that is going for your floater ribs, or the left hand that will follow to your jaw. Watch the body. If I can not see thier feet on the ground and thier hands then they are too close.
When I played football I learned when playing linebacker to watch the runners belt. that is the direction that the body is going to go.
No matter how many times you do it and nothing happens it only takes something going wrong one time to kill you.
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Old May 24, 2010, 09:10 AM   #42
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I'd agree that boxing is a good tool to train your mind to anticipate threats. Actually, other fighting techinques can be just as good, so long as you are fighting real people, and not just learning "moves" and conditioning. But, for me boxing/sparing was great mental and physical training.
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Old May 30, 2010, 07:35 PM   #43
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Great Post Pax!!

This is a great illastration on how its extremelt hard for humans to take in more then one source of data at a time. In the first video i didn't notice the gorrilla atall! A classic examle of being really focused on one thing and then not being aware of other surrounding factors. The human brain is an amazing wonder.

Thanks for the eye opener.

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Old May 30, 2010, 09:45 PM   #44
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I got the pass count correct and I noticed the gorilla walk through in the first video. In the second video I only caught the backdrop and table cloth change.

Very interesting post though. Its true enough that no one is fully aware of everything going on around them. My shrink diagnosed me with Hypervigilance about 6 years ago when I had to go in for an evaluation thanks to my highschool. Basically if I subconsciously suspect something I fear is nearby I get really tense and perceptive. I expect something I fear to pop out of just about anything. You'd think this means I would catch every little detail when I am in that state but such is not true.

Even when I am in that state I fail to notice certain things. A while ago I got scared when I saw my neighbor's dogs running loose barking. They had attacked people in the past and why they were never put down is beyond me. Anyway; I ran, they chased me. I knew I couldn't out run them for obvious reasons so I frantically looked for a weapon. I found beer bottle which I picked up and hit one of the dogs with. The end broke and I stabbed randomly at both dogs until they ran away. I was bitten a couple of times but I didn't realize until I got home that:
A) The bite wounds were bleeding badly. All of them needed more than 5 stitches
B) That I still held the broke bloody beer bottle.
C) That the bottle had broke up the neck and my hand was also bleeding badly. I needed several stitches on my hand after that.
D) That I had my cellphone on me and I could/should have called the cops immediately.
E) Another person was shouting after me who had witnessed everything.

I was too busy looking out for the dogs while running home. While I was running home I was frantically whipping my head around expecting to see dogs coming from any direction. I didn't notice that someone else was present who could have helped and that I had my cellphone. Both of these factors could have made the situation alittle easier to deal with. Instead I ran in panic nearly half a mile home constantly looking around and behind me for the dogs. Even when I got home I locked the door and still expected them to come for me.

It wasn't until I began to calm down and the person who had witnessed the dog attack rang my doorbell that I realized everything. You can only notice so much at a given moment. :barf:

EDIT: I dont know what happened to the owner or the dogs. About a month later I saw his house for sale.
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Old November 27, 2010, 09:12 PM   #45
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Bumping this older thread to the top because I just finished reading The Invisible Gorilla, Chabris & Simon's full length book about perceptual illusions and the limitations of intuition. This book is awesome and amazing, and if you're at all interested in this stuff (even tangentally), I'd strongly recommend it. It's a fast, enjoyable read with lots of stories to catch your attention and all the meaty-but-boring science bits jammed into copious endnotes that don't interfere with the main point.

Here are a few excerpts that seemed particularly pertinent to several of the responses on this thread. Enjoy!

Originally Posted by The Invisible Gorilla by Chabris & Simons

In this chapter, when we talk about looking, as in "looking without seeing," we don't mean anything abstract or vague or metaphorical. We literally mean looking right at something. We truly are arguing that directing our eyes at something does not guarantee that we will consciously see it. A skeptic might question whether a subject in the gorilla experminet... actually looked right at the unexpected object or event. To perform these tasks, though (to count the passes, pursue a suspect, or sweep the area for ships), they needed to look right where the unexpected object appeared. It turns out there is a way, in a laboratory situation at least, to measure exactly where on a screen a person fixates their eyes (a technical way of saying "where they are looking") at any moment. This technique, which uses a device called an "eye tracker," can provide a continuous trace showing where and for how long a subject is looking during any period of time -- such as the time of the gorilla video. Sports scientist Daniel Memmert of Heidelberg University ran our gorilla experiment using his eye tracker and found the subjects who failed to notice the gorilla had spent, on average, a full second looking right at it -- the same amount of time as those who did see it!
(The above might be especially interesting to Enoy21 and a few others.)

Another snippet:

Originally Posted by The Invisible Gorilla

Our colleague Daniel Levin, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University, along with Bonnie Angelone of Rowan University, described the gorilla experiment to over one hundred undergraduate students, but without actually showing them the video or asking them to perform the task. After hearing about the experiment, including the appearance of the gorilla--but not hearing about the results--they were asked whether they would have noticed the gorilla if they had participated in the experiment themselves. Fully 90 percent of them predicted they would have seen it. When we originally conducted the study, though, only 50 percent actually did.
That one, of course, will be interesting to everyone who didn't get to see the video but was certain that they themselves would be numbered among the "noticers" and not among the "missers."

Originally Posted by The Invisible Gorilla

Many people who have experienced the gorilla experiment see it as a sort of intelligence or ability test. The effect is so striking -- and the balance so even between the number who notice and the number who don't -- that people often assume that some important aspect of your personality determines whether or not you notice the gorilla. ... Despite the intuitive appeal of the gorilla video as a Rosetta stone for personality types, there is almost no evidence that individual differences in attention or other abilities affect inattentional blindness.
And that's for everyone patting themselves on the back for their phenomenal brainpower and powers of attention when they spotted the gorilla. The book goes on to relate several different experiments that explore the question of who notices and why they notice or don't notice. The jury's still out on that one, but several of the most obvious explanations have been ruled out already ... including the pleasing notion that we can simply will ourselves to notice the unexpected.

As I said, it's an intriguing book and definitely worth your time if you're interested in knowing more about your mind and how it works -- and about how to improve your chances of noticing the invisible gorillas in your everyday life. There are actually a lot of very persistent and pervasive illusions that affect your decision-making, your understanding of the events around you, and your ability to stay safe in a dangerous world.

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