Siri Hustvedt

“Notes on Seeing”
Nov 2009

Nomadikon, Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen

“Notes on Seeing”

To look and not see: an old problem. It usually means a lack of understanding, an inability to divine the meaning of something in the world around us.

Cognitive scientists have repeatedly conducted the following experiment and, without fail, they come up with same results. An audience is asked to watch a film of two teams playing basketball. They are given a job to count the number of times the ball changes hands. I have done this, and one has to be very attentive to follow the motion of the ball. In the middle of the game, a man wearing a gorilla suit walks onto the court, turns to the camera, thumps his chest and leaves. Half the people do not see the great ape. They do not believe that he was actually there until the film is replayed and, indeed, a gorilla strolls in and out of the game. Nearly everyone sees the gorilla if he is not given the assignment. This has been named inattentional blindness. Read the rest of the article.