Scientists have discovered that gossiping humans become so engrossed in their chatter that they lose all awareness of what’s going on around them. They call it the invisible gorilla effect, because the gossipers don’t notice when someone in a gorilla suit walks past them. Would they be distracted by a real gorilla? That would depend very much on how the gorilla reacted to being ignored.
I often encountered gossiping humans in my circus days, and was mightily relieved if I managed to sneak past them without being noticed. The last thing I wanted was to get dragged into the conversation and asked for my opinion on the latest fatuous tittle-tattle. To maximise my chances of escaping, I crept stealthily on all fours and refrained from farting until I had moved a good distance downwind.
A gorilla not used to the ways of humanity might well have behaved differently. If he had thought the humans were snubbing him, he would have stopped and thumped his chest. This normally has the effect of halting conversations in mid-flow and making the humans take heed of the gorilla. They would then have had the options of running away or assuming the submissive position.
Be that as it may, this invisible gorilla phenomenon has become so widely celebrated that a pair of psychologists have written a book about it. The Invisible Gorilla is the unoriginal title of their book, demonstrating their desire to lay claim to the catchphrase. The manager of the safari camp says I ought to advertise the book in this blog:
“You’d get paid whenever anyone clicked on the link,” he explained. “How many gorillas ever made money just by sitting on their hairy arses? You’d be the first.”
“No I would not.” I replied. “There was a gorilla who won a bet by sitting on an ostrich egg without breaking it. In any case, I’m not going to advertise a book until I’m sure I approve of its contents. I’m not a whore who can be bought for money.”
The book has its own promotional website outlining its seminal insights. The authors point out that many colossal blunders have been committed by humans because of blind spots in their brains. This is indeed true. Humans are constantly wringing their hands about the goofs they have made, or complaining about the goofs made by other humans. The purported aim of the book (apart from making money for the authors) is to help people avoid these calamitous pitfalls.
“We try to give you a sort of x-ray vision into your own minds,” they say.
It sounds very good in theory, but they’re a little too cocksure for my liking. I am also annoyed that they make no mention of real gorillas. Could this be because both of the authors are men who have lost their hair, and don’t want their readers to make unfavourable comparisons? I am thinking of posting the following one-star review on Amazon:
This book, written by two bald men, has nothing to do with gorillas. Its title should have been ‘The Invisible Hairpiece’.
Keep it short and sweet when you’re twisting the knife.
Gorilla Bananas is taking a short vacation and will return on Wednesday 8th August.
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