Gorilla Going Ape Not Seen By Most

Working memory capacity influences attention spans

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) "Inattention blindness" is a phenomenon that makes most cell phone usage dangerous while driving.  'The Invisible Gorilla' video test proves once again that humans have difficulties focusing their attenion.

During this video study, participants were asked to count how many times 5 basketball players tossed a basketball. During the video, a hilarious man dressed up in a gorilla suit came into view, stood up and started banging on his chest.

Over half the study's participants with lower working memory capacity never saw the obvious distraction.

"Don't drive and talk on a cell phone."

Jason Watson, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, explains this new study using 'The Invisible Gorilla', found that people who noticed the gorilla were better able to focus their attention. 

Janelle Seegmiller, a psychology doctoral student and the study's first author explains the important application of this study to a real life issue: If one is driving in poor conditions, unexpected things can happen, and could lead to negative outcomes.

Seegmiller said that people with better attention spans probably have a more dynamic ability to respond to the unexpected while others with a lower working memory capacity may not have an effective response ability to unexpected stimuli.

She also added their prior research shows only 2.5 percent of the population are capable of handling driving while talking on a cell phone when an unexpected obstacle occurs in plain sight.

This study concluded that people with a higher working memory capacity are able to see the gorilla because the higher working memory capacity enables them to be able to shift their attention when appropriate.

The Utah study tested 197 psychology students between the ages of 18-35 with the gorilla video. The researchers measured working memory capacity with an operation span test, which is basically a sequential math test model.

Each student performed 75 of those math problems. For inclusion in the rest of the study, a score of 80 percent was required.Of the participants who counted the passes correctly, 58 percent in this study noticed the gorilla and 42 percent did not.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 18, 2011
Last Updated:
May 30, 2011