Books, Deep thoughts, Gratitude

A social experiment

 Okay, I gotta share this. It just so perfectly represents something that I think about often, but could never really explain.

First- watch this short video clip (if you received this in your email, click through to my site to see the video). It’s only 1 minute long. The gist of it is that you have to count how many times the players in the white shirts pass the ball to each other. That’s it! Very simple. Go ahead. I’ll wait here. 🙂

*It seems the video isn’t necessarily showing up for some reason… if you can’t see it, click on this link to see the video instead:

I’ll create some space so you don’t accidentally look ahead at what I’m about to say. 😉

Okay, done?

Alright, so if you watched it, you know what happens. As you are busy counting the people passing the ball around, a gorilla walks out, beats his chest, and then walks off the stage. Then at the end they ask you, “Did you see the gorilla??”

I saw the gorilla, because I knew about it in advance so I was kind of watching for him (cheater!!!). BUT, according to the researchers, at least half of people will miss the gorilla because they are so into counting the people passing the ball. 

There’s another twist though. 

Then they ask if you noticed that the curtain changed colors in the middle of the video, or that someone in a black shirt walked off the stage. Whoops. No, no I did not! I was focusing on counting the white shirts passing the ball + waiting for this gorilla man to make his appearance, so I apparently tuned out any other details.

This is so interesting!! I actually think about this all the time, because I feel like I personally have a tendency to “miss” things that happen right in front of me. I also am notorious for missing the huge, bold letters on a website that say like, “ORDER HERE” or whatever, while I’m meanwhile searching all over the site for the “order” button. 

I heard about this experiment on The Gratitude Diaries podcast yesterday. Janis Kaplan, the host, used it to illustrate the idea that there are things all around us to be grateful for that we are probably not even seeing! She comments that when we are so consumed and busy with our daily activities, we can start to “tune out” other joys that are happening around us. 

I love the connection to gratitude practice, and I agree. This is precisely why I keep my gratitude journal- it helps keep me accountable, and, because I know that I will be writing something down the next morning, I tend to “search” for or “notice” things that I’m grateful for during the day in a way I might not otherwise.

I think this experiment is incredibly intriguing in general. After hearing about it, I of course had to pull up the You Tube video last night. I was interested to see, too, that the researchers wrote a book about it. I’m definitely going to check that out. 

Details: A few personal examples…. 

Do you ever notice how we just gloss over details, even if they are things we see all the time? For example, think about a place you go all the time. Like, say a friend’s house, or a restaurant, or whatever. What color are the walls? What color is the carpet? Do you have any idea

I recently read a book for a whole month before I realized that I never actually looked at the cover long enough to really discern what the artwork was representing. I would glance at it, pick it up and that was it. When I stopped one day and really studied it, the cover took on a completely new meaning. I couldn’t believe I had just been looking right past it, every single day. 

One more example: In Florida last month, we stayed in the same hotel room for 8 nights. On the morning that we were checking out, I was looking all around the room to make sure we had all of our stuff. I suddenly “saw”, for the first time, the two (very large!) paintings hanging above the beds. They were beautiful beach scenes, but I literally never even NOTICED them in the entire week. If someone had asked me before that moment what was hanging on the wall, I would have had NO idea.

Anyway, I just find this so interesting. What else am I missing??? I don’t know if this is just human nature, or if we are more and more distracted these days due to our hectic lives, technology, etc… I do think spending less time on my phone in general helps me spend more time just sitting and looking around at my surroundings. The more we practice noticing things, the more we notice things, I think. (Though I am clearly a work in progress myself on this one.)

Because I’ve thought about this concept before, I sometimes actually do a little drill when I’m in a new place (but apparently not in a hotel room, lol!). I sometimes will just sit and look around if I’m out somewhere, deliberately noticing a bunch of small details. Like in a waiting room, for example. You could just sit and really look at the design on the carpet, the style of the chairs, the background color of the sign on the wall, what kind of music is playing, where they have placed the clocks…. Just practice noticing details. It’s really fascinating! 

Let me know in the comments:

1) Had you ever heard of this gorilla experiment before? 

2) Did you try it? Did you see the gorilla? What about the curtain change/person leaving the stage?

 3) What do you think about this topic?? Do you ever notice yourself missing “details” that have been right in front of you all along??

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful cellular data which allowed me to sit and watch this You Tube video in my parked car last night while waiting for Asher at swim practice. 🙂 Also, for the little light in my car which allowed me to see my book for the rest of the time!

2 thoughts on “A social experiment”

  1. I've watched this video before and surprisingly I saw the person. Not that I'm into details it's just my mind was looking for unexpected things. it's so true that when we rush from one place to another, literally or mentally, we miss a lot of details. that's why I think slowdown and be mindful has been game changing for me. Nowadays, i often do nothing but look at my kids and truly enjoy seeing doing everything that they do, always melts my heart how much they've grow while still my baby. it's not easy when our mind is racing 100 miles, so slowdown, slowdown is mantra these days.


  2. I watched it and did NOT see the gorilla OR the changing color. I was so proud of myself when I got the number of passes correct! That pride was short-lived. ha! I think this is totally true, though. We do miss a lot of what is right in front of us, and our phones do NOT help. I actually kind of commented on this loosely in my post this morning. Pre-Paul my life was pretty hectic with lots of work and fun travel. I would often kind of 'miss' the entire season of fall in Minnesota. This fall, I am really really savoring it and noticing the changing leaves because I have time for walks and I'm making sure I look up and look around – even though I'm usually listening to a podcast while walking! But we definitely have to train ourselves to do that!


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