Did you know that an experiment with a gorilla can teach us a whole lot about creating great relationships?
Well, not a gorilla, exactly. But an element of a classic (read: old) study that demonstrated an urgent and timeless truth every one of us must learn if we want to live, work, and play well with others.
In 1999 at Harvard University, volunteers watched a short video of people playing around with some basketballs. The viewers were told to count how many times those in white shirts passed a ball. Simple, right? Well, at the end of the video, the viewer is asked, “Did you see the gorilla?”
It turns out, half of viewers involved in the experiment missed the fact that someone in a gorilla suit walks into the middle of the swirling players, faces the camera, beats their chest, and walks out of the frame. It wasn’t at all subtle. In fact, researchers later used eye trackers and many viewers looked straight at the gorilla for a full second or two, and still didn’t see it.
Researchers call it “inattentional blindness.” It’s the invisibility of something that should actually be obvious and noticeable. We don’t notice something important, simply because we’re not looking for it.
Well, it turns out, in our own research, we have seen how vital it is to root out one particularly common and dangerous blind spot that probably impacts us and our relationships every single day. We have also seen how vital it is to look straight at and see something else instead.