More than a decade ago, neuroscientists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons did an experiment. They filmed a group of students passing a basketball to each other. Some of them were dressed in black, others in white. The viewers had to count the number of times the ball was passed.
Before we proceed, see the video, because well, the rest of the post is a spoiler.
Halfway through the video, a gorilla saunters in, pounds his chest and walks away. Did you see the gorilla? If you did, calm down, you are no better than the others. Around 50% of the people report seeing the gorilla. The other half of the population don’t see the gorilla at all. People are so caught up with counting the passes, they don’t even see a full size hulking gorilla.
In a different version of the experiment, Simons released another video.
This time, people who had seen the previous video were able to spot the gorilla. But in this video, there were two other changes. The colour of the curtain changed, and one of the players walked off from the game. Again, half the people did not notice these changes!
This is termed as ‘inattentional blindness’, a psychological lack of attention that is actually not related to any visual defect. It basically means that your eyes are fine, but your brain is spaghetti and cheese – at least in those moments. Okay, just kidding. Numerous theories have been proposed to understand the phenomenon of selective attention. However, one thing remains constant – we perceive far less of the visual world than what actually exists when our attention is focused on a particular task. However, we remain confident in our ability, which is where the kicker lies. We are unaware of the limits of our attention.
Of course, there are upsides of inattention blindness. It allows us to concentrate despite the distractions around us. So when you are ignoring your boyfriend when he is trying to talk to you and you are engrossed in Stranger Things, you now have a word for it.
That said, let’s take a step back and look at this again in a broader context. Life in a B-School is hectic – you know it, I know it. We are so caught up in the smaller things that we forget the bigger things. While trying to finish the case study before the deadline, we forget to attend the fest. While typing away the assignment, you fail to see your roommate dressed in full clown get-up and prancing around your room (true story). In the race for the best placements, best projects, we forget that this is a span of two years in a span of 50 years.
So take a deep breath. Finish that case study, finish that assignment, make sure you get the company you are longing for – but ensure you never forget to see your roommate’s purple hair wobbling as she dances to Cheap Thrills.
About the Author:
Pooja Wanpal considers reading the sole aim of her life. She is obsessed with trekking, pani puri, and adores traveling. She is a freelance content writer, and has penned the novel, ‘Love and Lokpal’. She is currently studying Human Resource Management and Labour Relations at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is also a part of the InsideIIM Student Team 2016-17.