Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons have just written a new book entitled The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us about how our perception of what’s going on can be inaccurate, even if we’re paying attention. The classic example is the title of the book. An experiment had three white-shirted players and three black-shirted players walking around on stage passing balls. The audience was told to count the number of bounces the white-shirted players made. After a short time, a person in a gorilla suit walks through the middle of the action – waving from center stage – and continues offstage. How obvious could you get? Well, it turns out that 50% of the audience did not see the gorilla because they were concentrating on counting the bounces. It gets better. Simons played a video of this same experiment for another audience who knew about the gorilla trick, and it was clear that everyone noticed the gorilla this time because they were expecting it. However, at the end of the video, Simons said, “You all saw the gorilla. Good. But did you notice that the background changed from red to gold and that a member of the black team left the stage?” I didn’t. Amazing. I had to run it again to verify it. You can see the illusion here.
The illusion shouldn’t come as a surprise. Magicians have been taking advantage of misdirection for centuries, getting audiences to look over there when the real action is happening over here. And we are astonished every time to see animals or coins or handkerchiefs or whatever appear from out of nowhere.
What does this all have to do with horn playing?