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Online Viewing Recommendations > Friday, 21 January 2011 19:16:37 EST

Messing With People's Minds

Keywords: video, epistemology, book, Canada

If you paid attention to my last podcast, you'll remember that I promoted the book The Invisible Gorilla by by Christopher Chabris, and Daniel Simon.   If you haven't looked into the book as I suggested, and you've never heard of the experiment that it references, take a look at this video before continuing:

It's a fascinating book, and to get it in audiobook format simply follow this link, and if you don't have an account you can get one here, along with a 14 day free trial and a free audiobook.  The book is fascinating, and I highly recommend reading it.  What I want to talk about today involves another subject mentioned in the book, and I have a couple of videos that illustrate the concept.  If you've already seen these first videos, you might still want to scroll past them to the other funny videos I'm posting because I think you'll enjoy them.  The first one is from Richard Wiseman's Quirkology channel:

This is a wonderful example of change blindness, but it only goes to illustrate an even more surprising example of the phenomenon as highlighted by an experiment by Chabris and Simons:

Most people think they'd notice a change like that, but 75% actually don't.  As mentioned by that last video, magic is one way that people use the brain's limitations in order to fool people, but there's another really fascinating way to mess with people's expectations: pranking.  There's this wonderful Canadian prank show called "Just For Laughs: Gags" (I'll abbreviate it from here on out to JFLG), and they're masters of figuring out what people expect to see and then arranging situations so that their expectations are defied in hilarious ways.

It seems to me that an understanding of people's expectations and how they can be played with is important for critical thinkers, and the Chabris and Simons experiment reminded me of some of the pranks that they pull on JFLG.  In the book, Chabris and Simons mention that there are some differences that people will spot with regularity, such as gender and race.  We can highlight this by taking a look at a couple of JFLG pranks that play around with that fact:

I think that seeing how these pranks are done is really useful for critical thinking because it highlights how our minds expect certain results, and the ways that our minds can be played with and fooled.  Take, for example, the following pranks which highlight how you can convince people to take precautions against entirely invisible and imaginary dangers:

I like this one because it highlights the (reasonable) expectations we have just by looking at superficial surface features:

This one I find hilarious not so much because the victim is being directly fooled by faulty information, but because of the assumptions that he intuits that the owner of the car is going to make when she gets back.  You just imagine the story these people are trying to tell and think about how unbelievable it sounds:

"And then a nun came along and I thought she was going to help but instead she took out this big hammer and smashed in the window and there was nothing I could do to stop her!!  Where is she?  Well, she's not around anymore... she just sort of rushed off, but she was really here and she's the one who broke your window, I swear!!"

This next one is one of my favourites, just because of the illusion of continuity which forces people to wonder what the heck is on the other side of that puddle:

And finally, just to bring this post back to videos about gorillas:

Yes, this was mostly just an excuse to share some of my favourite funny videos, what of it?


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