Own My Growth

Helping folks with practical tips to manage themselves better

Paradox Of Focus


Focusing on one task at a time is very useful for productivity. However, sometimes when we focus too intensely on any particular task, we tend to become blind-sighted to everything else. This could be problematic.

I was exposed to this phenomenon in one of the work-related training programs where the trainer shared a short video titled Selective Attention Test, which shows two teams passing basketballs, one team wearing white shirts and the other wearing black, respectively. The Video instructs people watching the film to count the number of passes made by the white team, ignoring the black team.

You can watch the Video here.

Did You Notice It?

The task is both interesting and absorbing. About halfway through the Video, a woman wearing a gorilla suit crosses the court, thumps her chest, and moves on. For a full five to six seconds, the gorilla is in view. 

Thousands of people have watched the Video, and apparently, more than half of them don’t notice the gorilla walking through the group. I was one of them. I completely missed the Gorilla when I first saw the video !!

According to the researchers Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons who produced this experimental test, it is the task of forcing the viewers to focus on counting the number of passes while ignoring the black team, that results in the cognitive blindness to the black gorilla.

This invisible gorilla experiment illustrates the paradox of focus we often encounter in our lives. The Pen, Spectacles, or Phone is right in front of us, but we seem to be effectively blind to its presence- because our mind is preoccupied with some other task.

When our mind is occupied with something capturing our focus, our alertness to other external stimuli is significantly impaired. As a result, we become blind to our own cognitive blindness. Knowing this phenomenon is helpful for an important reason- When doing anything that requires extreme focus, avoid multi-tasking. You are likely to commit many mistakes that could be expensive and painful. 

One Reply to “Paradox Of Focus”

  • I do notice gorilla because I watched the video later . This is called ———.

    But this is good test . I checked with others and they too didn’t notice gorilla

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