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The Invisible Gorilla  By  cover art

The Invisible Gorilla

By: Christopher Chabris,Daniel Simons
Narrated by: Dan Woren
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Publisher's Summary

Reading this book will make you less sure of yourself - and that's a good thing. In The Invisible Gorilla, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, creators of one of psychology's most famous experiments, use remarkable stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to demonstrate an important truth: Our minds don't work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we're actually missing a whole lot.

Chabris and Simons combine the work of other researchers with their own findings on attention, perception, memory, and reasoning to reveal how faulty intuitions often get us into trouble. In the process, they explain:

  • Why a company would spend billions to launch a product that its own analysts know will fail
  • How a police officer could run right past a brutal assault without seeing it
  • Why award-winning movies are full of editing mistakes
  • What criminals have in common with chess masters
  • Why measles and other childhood diseases are making a comeback
  • Why money managers could learn a lot from weather forecasters

Again and again, we think we experience and understand the world as it is, but our thoughts are beset by everyday illusions. We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We’re sure we know where we were on 9/11, falsely believing that vivid memories are seared into our minds with perfect fidelity. And as a society, we spend billions on devices to train our brains because we’re continually tempted by the lure of quick fixes and effortless self-improvement. 

The Invisible Gorilla reveals the myriad ways that our intuitions can deceive us, but its much more than a catalog of human failings. Chabris and Simons explain why we succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects. Ultimately, the book provides a kind of x-ray vision into our own minds, making it possible to pierce the veil of illusions that clouds our thoughts and to think clearly for perhaps the first time.

©2010 Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons (P)2010 Random House

Critic Reviews

"From courtrooms to bedrooms to boardrooms, this fascinating book shows how psychological illusions bedevil every aspect of our public and private lives. An owner's manual for the human mind!" (Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and New York Times best-selling author of Stumbling Upon Happiness)

What listeners say about The Invisible Gorilla

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

What Gorillas Are We Missing?

This is the famous invisible gorilla experiment, familiar to anyone who has been reading the growing body of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics books about the (predictable) limits of our brains.

The sad fact is that none of us are as smart, rationale, analytical, or emotionally balanced as we perceive ourselves to be (unless we are clinically depressed, the only people who can accurately judge their own looks, performance, or status). We better face up to the fact that we miss more than we ever recognize (the gorilla experiment), and we forget more than we remember (and when we remember we tend to re-write those memories to make us the stars of the action).

We over-value what we have (loss aversion), and are slow to give up existing beliefs (even in the face of overwhelming evidence). We fail to listen to arguments that don't conform to what we already believe (confirmation bias), and give too much weight to arguments that match our existing beliefs. We confuse confidence with knowledge, good looks with expertise, and wrongly assume that skills in one domain (say athletics) transfer to other settings.

We over-think when we should listen to our guts, and listen to our guts when we should take some time and think things through. We see causality when only correlation exists. We see narrative when the only explanation is random chance. We give ourselves too much credit for success, and too much blame for failure. We assume we are exceptional, when in reality almost all of us are merely average.

Does know this change our behavior? If us academic types recognize just how likely we are to get it wrong, to miss the gorilla, will it change how we approach our jobs? Will we be better teachers, administrators, librarians, and technologists knowing how clueless we
really are?

I have a growing library of books to teach me all the things that I'm not very good at. I like this library - these books sort of take the pressure off. If you liked the following books I'm sure you will greatly enjoy The Invisible Gorilla (which, by the way, is well above average in the quality of its writing).

Here is my "why we are so dumb" list of books - can you suggest any additions?:

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely
The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, by Dan Ariely
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, by Kathryn Schulz
Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life, by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
Brain Rules, by John Medina
Why We Make Mistakes, by Joseph T. Hallinan
How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, by Gerd Gigerenzer
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mlodinow
Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind, by Gary Marcus
Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert
The Ape in the Corner Office, by Richard Conniff

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Recognizing your illusions

This book is namved after the now famious experimental video where a you get so focussed on coating the number of times a ball is bounced, that a person in a gorilla suit walks slowly through the scene (even stops and waves to you) and is not noticed at all! This has been followed by another video where the screen background changes color and a person leaves the group and neither is noticed!! This is the illusion of changing blindeess. We are often completely blind to things that we are not expecting - like a person in a gorilla suit walking in the middle of a video..did you know in a court room scene in the movie Jagged Edge, that Glen Close outfit changes 3 times while she is front of the jury and no one notices? These are exceptional demonstrations of how our minds can mislead us.

The authors provide their own theories and experiments to support their theories to answer questions like:

Why do eyewitness to the same event have completely different memories of what they saw?
Why do we trust people who exude confidence? Is this trust well placed?
Why won't some parents get their children innoculated for measles? Is this behavior warranted?
Does listenining to Mozart really make you smarter? How did this believe start?
Why would Hillary Clinton lie about being shot at when their was video to disprove her?

These questions are addressed in the chapters that include:
Chapter 1 - Illusion of Attention. Blinded to changes we are not looking for
Chapter 2 - Illusion of Memory. We believe our memories are better than they really are
Chapter 3 - Illusion of Confidence. Our misplaced trust in associating confidence with competence.
Chapter 4 - Illusion of Knowledge.
Chapter 5 - Illusion of Cause. Mixing up associations and correlations.
Chapter 6 - Illusion of Potential. Why we believe that there are simple methods to unlock our potential. Like classical music will make us smarter.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Great Overview over Hygiene of Perception

The authors of this book are master teachers. The clarity of their presentation is excellent. Like school, though, this comes at times at the cost of being a little bit longish. This is especially so, since, if you are interested in this subject at all or merely in touch with popular knowledge, you will know most of the 'surprising' studies already. I did find, though, that in many cases, they would offer that extra bit of interesting information, debunk or logic to a finding that made it more complete. (In written form this would be even more useful, as one would be able to look these things up later on.)
The book is scientifically rigorous and doesn't fear naming 'transgressions' against good thinking by Malcolm Gladwell and others. Still, the authors manage to not come across as entirely negative geeks and offer some useful conclusions. Nonetheless, this work is not inspirational in any classic sense of the word.
Consider it an overview or a high quality review of perceptive follies and you will be very satisfied. The quality of the reading is excellent.
Originality: 7
Clarity: 10
Reading: 9.9
Usefulness: 8.5

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


I wish i could find a wy to give more than 5 stars. One of the best books i have downloaded. The narration is outstanding, perfect for teh book, well paced.
Now for the content. i have read several sort of "popular psych" books, including Malcolm Gladwell's several books. Here is the idfference...this one is based on evidence and is written by scientists. Its all based on experiments by themselves and others which really question our understanding of how our minds process information. I found the structure excellent..if give you a framework to place all their conclusions. While I think some of the later chapters, especially the one on "self improvement" a little weaker then the first chapeters, that's partly because the first chapters are so rivetting.
I will really use this information as I teach. It's applicable to almost any field. It is incredibly inciteful. And a bonus is they rag on Gladwell several times, which, I agree with. Works like his are observations from which they extrapolate immutable laws about the way the world works. This book tries to rely on solid experimental evident. The difference is striking. In addition, as experts in the field, i find the authors' insights fresh, novel, clearly things that have been thought about and puzzled over for many years.
A remarkable read.

21 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book. The narration is perfect, and the content is very interesting. I feel like it gave me a different perspective on many of the ways that dumb/simple people act while following whatever stupid trend is out there. It has also made me reflect on some of my own feelings towards patterns throughout my life. It turned me onto the 'Fooled by Randomness' book also.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Had Higher Expectations

Don't get me wrong, the book is interesting. It presents a series of interesting ideas on how our minds perceive situations, experiences and our own selves. To do so, it uses a lot and I mean A LOT of examples to illustrate these ideas over and over and over and over again, so I'm betting you'll get the points they're trying to make.

I would suggest learning about these ideas to anyone, it's useful to know them and understand them, though after an over-explained lecture on them I would say the easiest way to simplify the book is to say "Our mind sometimes(often) deceive us".
So, in summary, if you have the time to learn about these ideas it would be an interesting investment for your self-awareness.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A True Eye Opener Into Our Thought Process

After reading the book I think I felt dumber, less confident, and less aware, but then I thought maybe my memory was wrong and I'm smarter, more confident, and more aware. Either way I know I really enjoyed this book and keep the list of everyday illusions printed in front of me to keep me aware of what I may be missing.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Eye Opening!

Everyone should read this book! I will be giving it as a gift to some of my family members (who really need it).

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

What did I miss?

This one is interesting to say the least. Worth the credit, and it may just open your eyes.. If not, you might find out you may have missed a few things along the way..

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

An interesting way to look at life

An interesting way to look at life and question the way we think and why

3 people found this helpful