Friday, October 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Stick a gorilla in an X-ray and almost no one notices

Sometimes, when people are doing something that demands their attention, they fail to notice that obvious, but unexpected, things have come into their line of sight. Psychologists call it inattentional blindness and think it happens when people are just so overloaded with stimuli they can't devote their attention to any more.

Stick a gorilla in an X-ray and almost no one notices

Silverback gorilla Jabari enjoying a snack in the primate exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo.  Today was the first day Kira, a female gorilla, joined the family group in the exhibit in PECO Primate Conservation Center at the Philadelphia Zoo on Wednesday, July 7, 2013. She is part of the family group of gorillas including Honi (female)  and the large silverback male, Jabari. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )
Silverback gorilla Jabari enjoying a snack in the primate exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo. Today was the first day Kira, a female gorilla, joined the family group in the exhibit in PECO Primate Conservation Center at the Philadelphia Zoo on Wednesday, July 7, 2013. She is part of the family group of gorillas including Honi (female) and the large silverback male, Jabari. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

 

Stick a gorilla in an X-ray and almost no one notices
Sometimes, when people are doing something that demands their attention, they fail to 
notice obvious, but unexpected, things that come into their line of sight. Psychologists 
call it inattentional blindness and think it happens when people are just so overloaded 
with stimuli they can’t devote their attention to any more. 
To illustrate the phenomenon, researchers have done experiments where they ask people 
to watch a video of a basketball game. One team is wearing white shirts and the other is 
wearing black and the viewers need to keep count of how many passes the white team 
made. At one point during the game, a man in a gorilla suit walks onto the court, looks at 
the camera, thumps its chest and then leaves. 
Almost everyone things they would notice something like this, but most of the time the 
experiment is done, half the viewers are so engaged in counting that they completely miss 
the gorilla!
Now, Harvard researchers have taken the “invisible gorilla” a step further. Rather than
having people off the street watch a basketball game, they asked a group of experienced
radiologists to look at a series of chest X-ray and locate nodules in the lungs.
A gorilla, 48 times the size of the average nodule, was inserted in the last case
that was presented. Eighty-three percent of the radiologists did not see the gorilla. Eye 
tracking revealed that the majority of those who missed the gorilla looked directly at its 
location. 
The takeaway from this? Even people who train for years to look for small abnormalities 
in images can miss something right in front of their face. Also, if you get small gorillas 
stuck in your lungs, you’re screwed. [Psychological Science]

Sometimes, when people are doing something that demands their attention, they fail to notice that obvious, but unexpected, things have come into their line of sight. Psychologists call it inattentional blindness and think it happens when people are just so overloaded with stimuli they can’t devote their attention to any more.

To illustrate the phenomenon, researchers have done experiments where they ask people to watch a video of a basketball game. One team is wearing white shirts and the other is wearing black and the viewers need to keep count of how many passes the white team made. At one point during the game, a man in a gorilla suit walks onto the court, looks at the camera, thumps its chest and then leaves.

Almost everyone things they would notice something like this, but most of the time the experiment is done, half the viewers are so engaged in counting that they completely miss the gorilla!

Now, Harvard researchers have taken the “invisible gorilla” a step further. Rather than having people off the street watch a basketball game, they asked a group of experienced radiologists to look at a series of chest X-ray and locate nodules in the lungs.

A gorilla, 48 times the size of the average nodule, was inserted in the last case that was presented. Eighty-three percent of the radiologists did not see the gorilla. Eye tracking revealed that the majority of those who missed the gorilla looked directly at its location.

The takeaway from this? Even people who train for years to look for small abnormalities in images can miss something right in front of their face. Also, if you get small gorillas stuck in your lungs, you’re screwed. [Psychological Science]

 

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