October 27, 2020

The Editor speaks: I couldn’t see the gorilla


Pin It

colin-wilsonweb2Today I couldn’t find my gorilla – actually my large plastic drinking cup with the words “Magna Carta” printed on it.

It is unique. You cannot miss it.

I did.

I searched and searched. I actually hate drinking water out of anything else. The water can come out of the same bottle on the drinking fountain but it somehow does not taste as good if I have to use a different utensil.

So I searched again. And again.

In desperation I asked my wife if she had seen it?

“Yes,” she said. “It’s in the kitchen. I don’t remember where but it is in there.”

That was the first place I had looked. In fact I had scoured every nook and cranny of the kitchen but I could not find it there.

However, despite disbelieving my wife I looked again. And again.

“It’s not there,” I said.

I started to walk away from the kitchen and then stopped. I saw it. It was standing as clear as day sitting on the countertop right beside the sink.

How could I possibly not have seen it?

I checked on the Internet to see if anyone else has experienced this problem.

Bingo. I am not alone. But why does it happen?

Apparently it is due to the brain’s ability to detect objects in the visual field, and it is called the pop out visual search, or just visual search.

And there has been research done on it.

Here it is:

Efficient “pop-out” visual search elicits sustained broadband γ activity in the dorsal attention network.
Ossandón T1, Vidal JR, Ciumas C, Jerbi K, Hamamé CM, Dalal SS, Bertrand O, Minotti L, Kahane P, Lachaux JP.
Author information

An object that differs markedly from its surrounding-for example, a red cherry among green leaves-seems to pop out effortlessly in our visual experience. The rapid detection of salient targets, independently of the number of other items in the scene, is thought to be mediated by efficient search brain mechanisms. It is not clear, however, whether efficient search is actually an “effortless” bottom-up process or whether it also involves regions of the prefrontal cortex generally associated with top-down sustained attention. We addressed this question with intracranial EEG (iEEG) recordings designed to identify brain regions underlying a classic visual search task and correlate neural activity with target detection latencies on a trial-by-trial basis with high temporal precision recordings of these regions in epileptic patients. The spatio-temporal dynamics of single-trial spectral analysis of iEEG recordings revealed sustained energy increases in a broad gamma band (50-150 Hz) throughout the duration of the search process in the entire dorsal attention network both in efficient and inefficient search conditions. By contrast to extensive theoretical and experimental indications that efficient search relies exclusively on transient bottom-up processes in visual areas, we found that efficient search is mediated by sustained gamma activity in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, alongside the superior parietal cortex and the frontal eye field. Our findings support the hypothesis that active visual search systematically involves the frontal-parietal attention network and therefore, executive attention resources, regardless of target saliency.

Well, did you understand any of that?

If you want to read the whole study (I don’t – it made my head hurt just reading the Abstract) it is available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22399764

The gorilla phenomenon refers to another study called “The Invisible Gorilla”.

The invisible gorilla comes from an experiment created 10 years ago to test selective attention. In it, study participants are asked to watch a video in which two teams, one in black shirts and one in white shirts, are passing a ball. The participants are told to count how many times the players in white shirts pass the ball.

Mid-way through the video, a gorilla walks through the game, stands in the middle, pounds his chest, then exits.

Then, study participants are asked, “But did you see the gorilla?” More than half the time, subjects miss the gorilla entirely. More than that, even after the participants are told about the gorilla, they’re certain they couldn’t have missed it.

“Our intuition is that we will notice something that’s that visible, that’s that distinctive,” explains Simons, “and that intuition is consistently wrong.”

Follow-ups to the gorilla study confirmed the findings. “There are sort of whole categories of intuitions, which are not really to be relied on, and that you can go seriously astray by relying on,” says Chabris.

“It’s true that the kinds of faculties that our minds are filled with right now are very good at solving particular problems that they’re designed by evolution to solve,” Chabris allows. But today’s world is a lot different from the world in which our minds evolved.

Things move much faster now, for example. “When our visual systems evolved, and when our capacities for attention evolved, we didn’t move at 60 mph. down highways,” so developing brains didn’t need to be able to notice a lot of unexpected things approaching at high speeds.

Likewise, Chabris says, “our faculties for making decisions were able to rely on anecdotes and stories, when that was the only information that was available to us.” Now that we have statistical studies and databases and all kinds of other information, we aren’t as good at making sense of and using information as a guide in our decisions.

SOURCE: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126977945

Now if I had mislaid my gorilla …….

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind