So, A Gorilla Walks Into A Room

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Do you think you would notice if a gorilla walked by?

In a well-known experiment, test subjects were asked to watch a video and count the actions of a group of people dressed in white, while ignoring the actions of those dressed in black. Without warning, someone wearing a gorilla suit walks through the scene.

Did everyone see the gorilla?

Actually, no. It turns out the task’s focus ‘blinded’ many of the subjects to what would seem to be rather obvious. I am sure you have had that experience many times (although, minus the gorilla), just as you have seen situations where this blindness is the result of a fixation — a singular focus on an idea or belief.

A director of small theatre company decides to leave his community, in which he has been producing for many years, for a smaller venue in a neighbouring city. The reason: the director had an enduring grievance about the cost of the venue.

With the move came loss: With the smaller venue there was no more box office and marketing support; no more front of house and technical staff.

The audience from the director’s original community did not follow him to the new location, and the new community did not discover the company. Ticket sales were poor, and prices had to be reduced 50% before opening night.

This is not a fictional story. I have seen it happen almost as described and in numerous variations. In this telling of the story, the director became so fixated on one idea, his singular focus, that he became entirely blind to the value and benefit of his home theatre. His company paid a high price as a result.

We all have beliefs and ideas onto which we hold tightly. But our grip should never be so tight — so fixated or obsessive — that we can no longer see the options, alternatives and new perspectives and ideas right before us.

We don’t want to be the cause of our own self-inflicted blindness. That gorilla could walk through the door at any time.

The gorilla study is described in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, as well as many other sources.

Photo source.