Tag Archives: Book

The Illusion of Attention


Before you do anything and read any further, watch this video:

That was fun! I love these things that teach us about how our minds work.

I have to admit, I didn’t see the gorilla. I was so focused on getting the number of passes right. It turns out it’s not so shocking that I missed the gorilla, though. Across diverse audiences, under different conditions and in different countries, 50% of people didn’t see the gorilla. What is shocking is that I was sceptical that I could possibly miss seeing such an obvious thing, and I replayed the video just to see if it was true. Yes, the gorilla really did come on the screen, and I completely missed it; it was invisible.

I guess this isn’t really shocking, though, since 75% of people say they believe they would notice something unexpected even if they were focusing on something else. The illusion is not that we don’t see the gorilla (unexpected things); the illusion is that we don’t think we won’t see them. We might think we know our minds and how they work, but in this case, most of us are wrong.

This experiment appears in a wonderful book called The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. Take a look at their website for more fun videos and information: theinvisiblegorilla.com.

This article comes from the first chapter of the book, “I Think I Would Have Seen That.” It speaks of “inattentional blindness” where our brains have a limited ability to pay attention. If we pay more attention to one thing, we pay less attention to other things; there’s no endless supply of attention. We can’t focus on everything at once, and even though we think we can multitask well, experiments have shown the more tasks a person does simultaneously, the overall performance of each task decreases.

Our mind is a limited resource. For example, when people were asked to count the number of aerial and bounce passes between players—like in the invisible gorilla video—while talking on a mobile phone, it was found they could still count, but it increased their chances of missing the gorilla. Increasing the amount of attention needed to go into counting two types of passes meant that less attention was available to notice the gorilla.

Now, apply this to driving while talking on a mobile phone. We can still go through the mechanical motions of driving—turning the wheel and pushing the pedals—but our attention given to the person on the other end of the phone means we’re more likely to miss unexpected events like a cyclist, pedestrian or even a car approaching or turning. This should be enough to convince us not to talk on the phone while driving. If you don’t believe this, you’re experiencing the illusion of attention.

Not convinced, read the book.

Cover of "The Invisible Gorilla: And Othe...

Cover via Amazon

What Is Your Word?


In the book Eat, Pray Love, the author Elizabeth Gilbert, writes about people and places having a word that defines them and drives them. In the book, she lived in Rome for a time, and Rome was said to have the word SEX. Elizabeth loved Rome, but she knew it wasn’t where she would live forever; it wasn’t her city because she didn’t feel like it belonged to her—SEX was not her word.

She had a think about what her word would be. She thought about the word for her family when she was growing up—FRUGAL, IRRERVANT—and the word for her own city she lived in—ACHIEVE.

I thought this was an interesting concept and think you can apply it to many things: school, friendship groups, workplaces, etc.

I tried to think of my word when I was growing up: INNOCENT? SHELTERED?

I tried to think of my word at school and in my town: WORK? MONEY? POSSESSIONS? APPEARANCE? I think it’s STATUS.

I tried to think of my word for me all my life: RESPONSIBILTY, DUTY, RIGHT, PERFECT. I’m not saying these are words that I am, but they words that drove me.

At the moment, the word everyone else seems to give me is: TEACHER or WISDOM.

Then I tried to think of the word I wanted to be: PEACE? FREEDOM? PASSION? MEANING? PURPOSE? I’m still working on it.

I guess the idea is to find out what your word is and see if it matches up with the word you want to be. Take a hard, honest look at yourself and find out what really drives you. Now, hold onto that honesty and find out what word you want to be. When you’re word matches up with what you want to be defined and driven by, I guess that’s the equivalent of the inner life matching the outer life.

And once you know your word, I guess the idea is to find people and places who have the same word as you. There’s your match, where you belong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t branch out and only stay with your those who match your word, but when you’ve found those people and those places who match your word, you’ll always have a home to go back to.

Do you know your word? Does it match the word you want to be?

Ways to help others and yourself Part 1.


It can be very annoying when people talk about doing something good for others, because sometimes we know that it`s good, but just not WHAT to do. So, what about making a list over small things one can do for others ? Feel free to supplement this list. More parts are coming later

1. This girl donates her hair for people with cancer.

In the next few weeks, I will cut off 8-12 inches of my hair and donate it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. This is an amazing cause where women grow strong, together. Check back for pictures by summer’s end. I originally donated my hair to honor CMD who was diagnosed with spinal cancer when I was in high school. This will be my third time donating to Pantene Beautiful Lengths and it is my way of changing someone’s life, for the better. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much hair I have or how I look without it. What matters is that someone is benefiting from the wig that my hair contributed to and feeling beautiful again (http://jhemway.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/10-change-someones-life-for-the-better/).@

write a donate organ card! Or donate blood

Stories about people saved by organ donation:

  • A little six-year-old boy regained his eyesight and an ex-fireman has a younger and healthy heart.
  • I have corresponded by mail and e-mail with the 37-year-old man who has one of James’ kidneys.  I hope someday we can meet each other, but right now we live too far away to do that.
  • Last year at the annual Giving and Living Celebration at the Southwest Transplant Alliance, we met a woman who was 47 and near death when she received James’ liver and other kidney.  She told me when she was in her coma for over two months, she felt like she was on a ship in the middle of an ocean alone.  She could hear people talking but they were far away.  How can I adequately describe the feeling when we met?  She was like meeting a long lost relative that I had never met before. It was wonderful and overwhelming.  She is a precious lady who has had to battle with a tremendous amount of physical problems and has a young child at home.

 Small Changes Which Can Make a Big Difference

small changes
Photo by Shermeee

 Set Your Alarm Half an Hour Earlier

The next tips by Ali Hale

There’s never enough time in the day – especially when you want to start something new. Maybe you’d love to write a novel, take up exercise, or have time to pray or meditate.

simply setting your alarm half an hour earlier? An extra 30 minutes in the morning, before you go out to work, could make all the difference. Write a plan about how you can do something good for someone that day. If 30 minutes is to rough, get up 15 min. before

One of the simplest tricks for drinking more water is to keep a bottle of it on your desk. It’s easy to take a swig regularly if you’ve got water in arm’s reach – and if you keep the cap on the bottle, there’s no chance of a spillage.

Hide the Television Remote (and Keep a Book by the Couch)

reading a book on the couch
Photo by Helga Weber

There’s nothing wrong with watching television. But for many of us, the TV becomes a default activity. It’s all too easy to come home, slump on the couch, and reach straight for the remote without even thinking. Increasing knowledge really can help you become more aware and conscious, which in return will make you more able to think for yourself

If that’s a habit you’re trying to break, put the remote somewhere else. Hide it in a cupboard or on a high shelf. That way, you’ll have to make a real decision to watch television.

You can go even further with this by putting a book that you want to read, or something else you want to get on with, next to the couch.

1. Say “Good morning” to a person standing next to you in the elevator.
2. Put a coin in an expired meter.
3. Help a mother carry her baby stroller up the subway stairs, or hold a door open for her. Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/35-Little-Acts-of-Kindness#ixzz2XoULqvjz
4. Pay the toll for the driver behind you.

5. Vote. While the Presidential election comes around only once every four years, elections happen every year. Check out the candidates for local and state elections.

6. Encourage your employer to sponsor local events, join a civic organization or allow employees to volunteer during work hours. Many businesses have volunteer programs to reward employees for volunteering. Local news

 Switch Your Light Bulbs for Energy-Saving Ones

Suffering eco-guilt? A lot of us want to do our bit for the planet – but we don’t know where to start. One of the simplest steps is to switch all your standard light bulbs for energy-saving ones. It’s not only much better for the environment, it’ll also save you money on your electric bill.

Be a good example!

(http://www.thechangeblog.com/gratitude)  Last year millions of people took the challenge proposed by Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister, to go 21 days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. To help condition the participants to stop complaining, they each wore a purple No-Complaint wristband. Several authors in the self-improvement genre have suggested that people do something similar to help condition themselves to be constantly aware of the things in life that they’re grateful for.