Have you ever gained an insight into life through The Invisible Gorilla?

If you google the words brain and mind, how many search results can you see? Those results might show us how much we are interested in them.

The Invisible Gorilla, coauthored by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, let me have an opportunity to rethink about life, so that I asked Professor Daniel Simons a few questions about that as follows. I’m once again grateful to him for his kind answers.

Daniel Simons is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois. Simons received his B.A. in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Carleton College and his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Cornell University. He then spent five years on the faculty at Harvard University before moving to Illinois in 2002. His scholarly research focuses on the limits of human perception, memory, and awareness, and he is best known for his research showing that people are far less aware of their visual surroundings than they think. His work is published in top scientific journals and is discussed regularly in the popular media. His studies and demonstrations have been exhibited in more than a dozen science museums worldwide. In his spare time, he enjoys juggling, bridge, and chess.

(Source: http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/biographies.html)

Dear Professor Daniel Simons,

I’m grateful to you for letting me have a good opportunity to rethink about life through your book, The Invisible Gorilla. I’d like to ask you a question: what do you think about writing and drawing of self’s future life scenario in order to overcome the everyday illusions and create self’s unique life through that?

I think self’s future life scenario enables us to comprehensively reflect on life from different perspectives. If so, that would decrease the possibility of the failure to notice unusual and salient events in life.

I would really appreciate your opinion.

Michael Chang

Dear Mr. Chang,

Thank you for your email, and I’m glad to hear that The Invisible Gorilla was thought provoking for you.  I’m not quite sure I understand your question about future self, though.  Are you asking whether it’s possible to eliminate the illusions?  That might be hard to do, but by being more aware of them, you can try to counter them. What we can’t easily change are the cognitive limits themselves.  There is no way to change yourself so that you can notice everything around you, remember the world like a video camera, etc.

Those limits are more structural limits on how the brain and mind function, and they are often consequences of how the mind works. What we can do is learn better how the mind works so that we won’t make the wrong assumptions about what we notice and remember.  I hope that addresses your question.  If not, let me know.

Best,

Dan

Professor Daniel J. Simons

Dear Professor Daniel Simons,

Thank you for your kind reply.

My question is about how to improve the illusions and the cognitive limits, and how to apply the finite capacity to life, even though our humans can’t perfectly see everything owing to them.

As you mentioned, what we can’t easily change are the cognitive limits themselves. In this respect, the invisible gorilla might teach us to be more humble and forgiving, and furthermore to focus the finite capacity on what deserves our careful and continuous attention in life.

In consideration of aforementioned facts, the best way to use the brain and mind in our life is to focus the finite capacity on a few things that deserve our careful and continuous attention in life.

As you know, there would be a lot of things to affect our life. They could be health, money, work, friends, spouse, kids, etc. Even though we can’t perfectly see all of them, if we have an insight on life and find out the most important and uncertain things to affect life, we could live a more successful and happier life by focusing the finite capacity on them and envisioning the future based on life scenarios created by them.

Maybe, as spiritual leaders devote their whole lifetime to reflecting on only a couple of questions about life, if we unload unnecessary things from our brain and mind, and focus on more valuable things, we might not need more capacity of the brain and mind.

I would really appreciate your opinion.

With best wishes

Michael Chang

Dear Mr. Chang,

You might well be right that prioritizing larger life goals and avoiding distractions could lead to a better life. I cann’t argue with that philosophy in general.  The sorts of limits we discuss apply at a more local, moment-to-moment level too, and those immediate effects might be harder to counter through deliberate prioritization of life goals. Being aware of them can’t hurt, though, even at that level.

Best,

Dan

Professor Daniel J. Simons

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