The Topic: Attention
The Guest: Daniel Simons
The video above demonstrates the Monkey Business Illusion. It’s designed to fool both people who have and have not seen the selective attention test, a video on YouTube with over 5 million views.
The first post at You Are Not So Smart was about inattentional blindness. I had seen the selective attention test and the Test Your Awareness videos that were making the rounds on YouTube, and I knew inattentional blindness would make a great first topic. It is astounding to realize you’ve been lying to yourself about what gets into your brain through your eyeballs.
What is inattentional blindness? It’s missing something right in front of your eyes because you are paying attention to something else. What makes that a great topic for You Are Not So Smart is that this blindness is always part of experience, but you can spend a lifetime without ever knowing it happens. You tend to have an intuition and a belief that you see everything you are facing, and if something out of the ordinary was to happen, it would instantly grab your attention. Not so. Science has revealed you are basically blind to that which you are not attentive, yet your conscious experience and your memories don’t reflect this. That’s the epiphany that slams into your brain when you watch the original invisible gorilla video.
Their book covers the many ways you miss what is going on around you thanks to your imperfect senses, and it also breaks down your unrealistic confidence in both those senses and the memories they form.
The book is co-written by two psychologists, so I broke the interviews into two episodes. In episode one, I interview Daniel Simons. He is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois.
Also, as promised, each episode will feature a cookie tasting while I read and explain a bit of psychology or self-delusion news. The cookies come from the recipes you send in, and if I (or my wife) bake your recipe you receive a signed copy of the YANSS book. (Send those to david [at] youarenotsosmart.com) This week’s winner is Joe Frayer of Indianapolis. He sent in a recipe for chocolate-chip cookie and Oreo fudge brownie bars. His sister made them first and posted about them on her blog. She found the original recipe on this site. You can find the recipe for this and all future cookies recipes sent my way at the YANSS cookie recipe Pinterest page.
Photo of our first baking: