Monday, June 20, 2005

The Invisible Gorilla

by Louise Bergmann DuMont

I came across a very interesting study on the internet today. Professor R. Wiseman filmed six teens passing basketballs to each other. Three were wearing white shirts and three were wearing black shirts. In an experiment, individuals watching the film were asked to count how many times those wearing white shirts passed the ball.

After the video was over, the individuals watching the video were asked if anything unusual occurred during the film. Hundreds were interviewed and they all said that nothing unusual happened. The strange part is that during the film a man in a gorilla suit walked across the stage, pounded his chest, and walked off the other side of the stage. Yet not one single person watching the video remembered seeing this happen - despite the fact that it was obvious to them when they watched the clip a second time. Many insisted that a different clip had been substituted for the original because they could not believe that they didn't see the gorilla the first time it was shown.

Because those watching the film were focused on a single task - counting the number of passes made by the teens wearing white shirts.

Tunnel vision occurs when a person tries too hard to make their point. Instead of opening their mind to a fresh approach or incorporating a new idea into an old theme, they focus only on what they previously decdied to present. The writer ignores the gorilla pounding his chest for attention because he never even sees it.

Writers need to look around for the unique approach, the unexpected angle and previously untold story. They need to turn tired old statements into a fresh new commentary. They need to seek lively quotes from unanticipated sources and surprise their reader with previously undiscovered details.

A writer does not need to accept the rest of the world's viewpoint, but they do need to acknowledge the existence and impact of the gorilla in their midst.

To see the film clip I described above, go to this site and click on the small green video dot (or arrow) under the film to start it moving.

NOTE: Professor Richard Wiseman has a first-class honors degree in Psychology from University College London, a doctorate from Edinburgh University, and was awarded the prestigious Perrott-Warrick Scholarship from Trinity College Cambridge

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