Little-Known Danger Could Put You at Risk
If a gorilla walked past you in a hotel lobby, would you notice?
You may be laughing right now… but more than 4 out of 10 people don’t see the gorilla when shown a similar scene on video.
The video is a test for a condition called inattention blindness. It’s what causes people talking on their cell phones while driving to have more accidents. So – gorilla or not – it’s a serious subject.
And it’s one that may affect you. Let me explain…
First, about the video.
There are 6 people in the video – 3 in dark shirts, 3 in white. They’re milling around in front of 3 doors tossing a pair of basketballs to each other. People in dark shirts only pass their ball to other dark-shirted people. And those in white shirts only toss their ball to other white-shirts.
Before the video starts, viewers are instructed to count the number of times members of the white team pass the ball back and forth. Then the video rolls.
Right in the middle, a person in a gorilla suit walks into the room, turns to the camera, beats his chest a few times, and continues across the room.
This odd scene didn’t register with 42% of the people who watched the video.
Now you know why using a cell phone while driving is a bad idea.
But that’s not my point here. You see, even if you’re one of the 6 out of 10 people who’d notice the gorilla… you may not always be.
Scientists at the University of Utah have figured out what causes inattention blindness. It’s a lack of something called working memory.
Think of your brain as a computer. Most of your computer’s memory is on the hard drive. But the memory it needs for the tasks you’re doing right now is on a memory chip. It’s called “flash memory.” It’s faster and easier to access than the memory on your hard drive, so it helps your computer run faster.
Your working memory is sort of like that flash memory. You use it to handle the things you’re doing right now.
The Utah researchers tested nearly 200 students for working memory capacity. When they showed the students the video, almost 7 out of 10 with less working memory missed the gorilla.1
And here’s why this is important. As we get older, studies show that our working memory tends to get smaller2… while inattention blindness tends to grow.3
Fortunately, you can take several steps to keep your memory stronger overall.
Make sure you’re getting enough B vitamins. They’ve been linked to improved memory.
Moderate exercise can also help you stay sharp. In one study, adults who exercised were a third less likely to lose their mental edge.4 be sure to get enough sleep, too. Your brain consolidates memories and learning as you sleep.
And, of course, don’t try to do two things at once, if one of them may be dangerous.
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
Best Life Herbals
1 Seegmiller JK, et al. Individual differences in susceptibility to inattentional blindness. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol 37(3), May 2011, 785-791.
2 Bo J, et al. Age-related declines in visuospatial working memory correlate with deficits in explicit motor sequence learning. J Neurophysiol. 2009 Nov;102(5):2744-54. Epub 2009 Sep 2.
3 Graham ER and Burke DM. Aging increases inattentional blindness to the gorilla in our midst. Psychol Aging. 2011 Mar;26(1):162-6.
4 Geda YE, et al. Physical Exercise, Aging, and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Study. Archives of Neurology: Vol. 67 No. 1, January 2010.