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The Invisible Gorilla

And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us

By Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
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The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

The Invisible Gorilla (2010) explores the way our intuition is not the beacon of guiding light we think it is. In fact, it’s often erroneously based on illusions. By debunking some examples of common knowledge, Chabris and Simons argue why our intuition often cannot be trusted.

Key idea 1 of 8

Though we’re taught otherwise, our intuition often can’t be trusted.

Ever tried to navigate through a situation by listening to your intuition, but ended up in an even more tangled mess? If so, you’re not alone. Sometimes gut decisions can go wrong. Here’s why:

We’re often taught to let our intuition be our guide, to “go with your gut” because “it’s just common sense.” These sayings are based on the idea that our intuition – that is, our ability to understand something instinctively – is an ideal means to making decisions and judgments about situations and events.

In recent years, self-help books on management and psychology have lauded intuitive decisions over decisions based on analysis. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink – The Power of Thinking without Thinking, for example, he argues for intuition over analysis. He attempts to demonstrate this by revealing how a Greek statue appeared on the art market and was subsequently proclaimed to be a fake by art experts who trusted their gut. In contrast, several analyses weren’t able to show it was fake.

But our intuition has its limits and can actually be unreliable. There are many examples of forgery slipping through the cracks, undetected by expert intuition.

For example, book dealer Thomas J. Wise found and sold several manuscripts for unknown books by well-known writers. Librarians and book collectors alike were convinced they were the real deal, but after analysis by two British dealers who took into account information about the authors’ lives, the books were all found to be fake.

It also pays to remember that we have phrases in our language that tell us of the limitations of our intuition. For instance, many of us say “never judge a book by its cover” because we know we can’t reliably assess something at first glance.

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