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3. Attention: Hacks 34–43 > 41. Make Things Invisible Simply by Concentrating (...

Make Things Invisible Simply by Concentrating (on Something Else)

What you pay attention to determines what you see, so much so that you can miss things that are immensely obvious to others—like dancing gorillas, for instance.

Attention acts as a kind of filter, directing all resources to certain tasks and away from others. Nowhere is the impact of attention on what you actually see more evident than in the various experiments on inattention blindness.

Inattention blindness comes up when you’re focusing as much attention as you can on a particular task and trying really hard to ignore distractions. It’s the name given to the phenomenon of not noticing those distractions, however blatant and bizarre they become. In the most famous experiment on this subject, subjects had to watch a video of a crowd playing basketball. Concentrating on a spurious task, a good number of them were completely blind to the gorilla that walked into view halfway through the game.


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