October 25, 2007

The Tattlesnake — They Can’t See the Gorilla, or the Pile of Elephant President in the Middle of the Room Edition

Filed under: Commentary,Opinion — RS Janes @ 8:22 am

The Science They Hate Proves the ‘Doors’ of Perception are Shut to the Neocon’s ‘Stone Age Brains’

The sub-head of The Telegraph (UK) article “Did You See the Gorilla?” reads: “Our Stone Age brains may simply be unable to cope with the pace of modern life…”

But not all of us have ‘Stone Age brains’ as the article goes on to elucidate. In the various university experiments testing human perception, about half failed to notice what was going on, roughly similar to the Duke University experiments conducted decades ago to show the weakness of eyewitness testimony.

In one experiment, a stranger entered a classroom, did something rude and unexpected, then exited, all within about fifteen seconds. The surprised students in the class were asked to record details of the man’s appearance, his clothing, his race and any other identifying characteristics.

About one-half of the students got important details wrong, the kind of details police would need to identify a suspect, such as the color of his clothing or his hair, or his height and weight. Twenty percent of the students, all of them white, claimed he was a black man when he was white.

In the updated experiment mentioned in the article, conducted by Dr. Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois and Dr. Daniel Levin of Vanderbilt University, people strolling across a college campus were asked for directions by a stranger. While they are talking, two men carrying a door pass between the stranger and the subjects.

As the article notes:

“Half of those tested failed to notice that, as the door passed by, the stranger had been substituted with a man who was of different height, of different build and who sounded different. He was also wearing different clothes.

“Despite the fact that the subjects had talked to the stranger for 10-15 seconds before the swap, half of them did not detect that, after the passing of the door, they had ended up speaking to a different person. This phenomenon, called change blindness, highlights how we see much less than we think we do.”

In another classic experiment the piece covered, Christopher Chabris at Harvard University and Dr. Simons showed a videotape of two teams playing basketball to a random group of subjects. The subjects were asked to count the number of passes made by one of the teams. As the article adds:

“Around half failed to spot a woman dressed in a gorilla suit who walked slowly across the scene for nine seconds, even though this hairy interloper had passed between the players and stopped to face the camera and thump her chest.”

They just didn’t see the gorilla in the background as they focused on the players and the ball. Imagine this sort of ‘change blindness’ affecting the abstract thought processes needed to choose a candidate or political ideology in today’s ‘information overload’ world. Further imagine that there are groups of well-paid people like Frank Luntz dedicated to telling you that no such gorilla exists, reinforcing their already inadequate perception of reality.

Later, were the viewers who saw no gorilla to hear that the gorilla robbed, killed and ate the basketball players, and that they had witnessed the beginnings of a crime, this same well-paid Fox Newsy ‘reinforcing group’ would continue to reassure them that they saw nothing; the gorilla must be innocent, since there was no gorilla. (Of course, this reinforcing group is being paid by the gorilla.)

Many Americans seem to spend less time deciding whom to vote for than they do shopping for cuts of meat at the supermarket. Only recently, because the presence of ‘the gorilla’ has affected meat prices, are a majority questioning the faulty perceptions easily sold to them in the past. Still, about 20 percent, the hardcore neocons, persist in believing there is no gorilla in the background that robbed and devoured the team, no doubt the same type who, at Duke, misidentified the white thief as being black.

In short: Neocons can’t deal with reality because they can’t adequately perceive reality, and they can never change because they’re afflicted with ‘change blindness.’

And that large pile of elephant excrement in the middle of the room? Why, that’s our Beloved Leader.

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