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A History of Modern Psychology 11th Edition

A History of Modern Psychology (11th Edition)

Book Edition11th Edition
Author(s)Schultz, Schultz
Chapter 1, End of Chapter, Review Questions, Exercise 1
Page 18

Describe how the studies of the clown and the gorilla support the notion of inattentional blindness. Relate this to your own experiences when you did not see something that other people said was really there.

Here is a tip:

People can suffer from inattentional blindness because of various reasons, and distractions from the surroundings can also contribute to the lack of focus.


Researchers Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons carried out the most important experiment on inattentional blindness. A short video, in which two teams, each comprising three members, played a game of basketball. One of the teams wore black shirts, while the other wore white shirts. The video had a very short span. The subjects in the experiment were a group of students. They were asked to watch the video very carefully and count the number of times the white shirt team passed the basketball to each other. After around one minute of the video, a person dressed up as a gorilla walked straight into the game, turned towards the camera, thumped their chest, and left the game. After the video was over, the subjects were asked if they noticed anything unusual in the video. 50 percent of the subjects replied that they had noticed nothing unusual, that is, they had not noticed the gorilla. It might seem impossible to ignore the gorilla walking right into the scene, but because of inattentional blindness, the attention of the subjects was focused on counting the number of ball passes. As a result, they failed to notice the gorilla. 


Researcher Ira Hyman also studied inattentional blindness. In their experiment, they asked a person to dress up as a clown and ride a unicycle in the central area of a university campus, where students could be seen going to their classes, coming back from them, or just strolling. The researcher then asked the students present if they saw something distinct and unusual in the main campus area, that is, whether they noticed the clown or not. It was recorded that among those who walked alone, 50 percent saw the clown. Among those who walked in pairs or with a group, about 70 percent saw the clown. However, among those who were busy looking at their cellphones, only 25 percent noticed the clown. This illustrated inattentional blindness. The attention of students was on their cellphones, as a result, they failed to notice something so distinct and unexpected, that is, a clown roaming around them. 


Focusing the attention selectively on one stimulus or task leads people to ignore other things. While watching movies, people often tend to miss out on many things, and when this is discussed later, they cannot believe that they missed something. This is because, at that time, their focus was on one part of the film and they most probably could not register the other things. Similarly, a driver on the road may miss a big truck passing in their next lane because their attention is diverted by their co-passengers.

Sample Response

Inattentional blindness is referred to as the psychological phenomenon through which an individual misses out on an easily visible, but unexpected visual stimulus. This phenomenon occurs because the human brain, rather than focusing on every small detail, tends to notice only the things that are most important during a particular moment. This leads to the brain not registering those things that were out of focus, thereby leading to inattentional blindness.


In one of the famous studies of inattentional blindness, a video in which two teams were playing basketball was shown to a group of subjects. The task given to the subjects was to keep a count of the number of times the players of one of the teams passed the ball to one another. Sometime in the video, a person dressed as a gorilla walked between the teams playing the game. Inattentional blindness could be seen when none of the players playing the game noticed that a person dressed as a gorilla walked among them. Inattentional blindness was also seen when 50 percent of the subjects seeing the video denied that had seen something different in the video. 


In another study of inattentional blindness, a person, in the getup of a clown, walked on the campus of a university. When the students walking to and from their classes were asked if they saw something unusual, a large number of students said that they did not. This reflected the phenomenon of inattentional blindness. 


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