Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Invisible Gorilla

First watch the following video and count the number of passes that the white shirt team makes:

Did you see the gorilla? Most people don't see it when they watch the video for the first time.
The book The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us was written by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, the psychology professors who are known for their 'Gorillas in Our Midst' study. This is an incredible book.
The fact that many people can miss something that happens right in front of their eyes, also known as inattentional blindness, is just one section of the book. Remember the incident in the Canary Islands where a passenger plane took off and ran in to another airplane as it was going down the runway? The pilots didn't even see the Boeing 747. Many other examples are given. Even doctors can miss things in X-rays, items that are right in front of them.
Did you know that smart chess players and stupid criminals have something in common? I'm not going to give away the concepts; just read Chapter 3. People who are interested in business and investing should find Chapter 4 of interest: 'Should you be more like a weather forecaster or a hedge fund manager?' Everybody overestimates what they know, even scientific experts. This is called the 'Illusion of Knowledge.'
Cause and effect is one of the important concepts extensively covered in the book. Did you know that more people drown on days when a lot of ice cream is consumed? Is there cause and effect? Is there a correlation? Is there another cause for both? Or is it just a coincidence?
One of the key takeaways from this book is the following quote:
The only way - let us repeat, the only way - to definitively test whether an association is causal is to run an experiment.
There are numerous books available to readers, which I call 'Why' books; why you should be doing this or that, why this happens, why that happens, why the economy happens a certain way, why people do certain things, and on and on. Chabris and Simons make it very clear that unless there is an independent scientific experiment that that proves something with statistical significance, with the study published in recognized scientific journals with peer review, then the claim may not, and in many cases, probably not, be true.
You don't have to worry about a lot of scientific gibberish in this book. It is very clear and easy to read and understand. The Invisible Gorilla is one of my favorite books that I have read for this year, and I highly recommend it.

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