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The Invisible Gorilla

And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us

By Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
13-minute read
Audio available
The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us 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.

  • People interested in the inner workings of the mind
  • Psychology students
  • Managers who want a new way to approach to decision making

Christopher Chabris is associate professor of psychology and co-director of the neuroscience program at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He is also a chess master who writes about the game for the Wall Street Journal.

Specializing in experimental psychology, Daniel Simons is a professor both in the department of psychology and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois.

Together, Chabris and Simons won the Ig Nobel Prize (awarded to research that “makes people laugh, and then think”) for their work on the invisibility of gorillas.

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The Invisible Gorilla

And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us

By Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
Synopsis

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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