The task was simple. Watch the ball, count the passes. Don't be distracted by the players in the black uniforms, watch the players in the white uniforms. And, like most of my fellow over-achievers at Yale, I wanted to do this right. So, I got really focused and did the task.
The task ended, and the results were summarized. Thankfully, I thought, I did it right - I counted the correct number of passes for the white team. Hooray! However, the video soon prompted: "But, did you see the gorilla?" An audible murmur vibrated from the audience: a group equivalent of "WTF"? Soon, the murmur was followed by gasps and giggles as the video was replayed in slow motion. There, walking right through the scene, was some dude in a gorilla suit. Almost everybody in the audience had missed him.
|Oh, that gorilla.|
What does this mean at a practical level? My interpretation is that we must consciously select a level of intensity for our focus depending on the task. In addition, since life's challenges are often so poorly defined, we must be sure to get into an open-minded state from time-to-time. Otherwise, we might miss a gorilla.