83% of radiologists missed the gorilla in this lung scan.
Most people would like to think that when Blue Shield rips them off and makes them pay for most of a cat scan, that They’ll get their money’s worth when the radiologist checks it out carefully. But no. Most won’t even find that gorilla in their lungs that’s causing the cough.
This is because when you ask someone to perform a challenging task, without realizing it, their attention narrows and blocks out other things. So, often, they literally can’t see even a huge, hairy gorilla that appears directly in front of them.
That effect is called “inattentional blindness” — which brings us back to the expert lookers, the radiologists.
This wasn’t because the eyes of the radiologists didn’t happen to fall on the large, angry gorilla. Instead, the problem was in the way their brains had framed what they were doing. They were looking for cancer nodules, not gorillas. “They look right at it, but because they’re not looking for a gorilla, they don’t see that it’s a gorilla,” Drew says.
In other words, what we’re thinking about — what we’re focused on — filters the world around us so aggressively that it literally shapes what we see. So, Drew says, we need to think carefully about the instructions we give to professional searchers like radiologists or people looking for terrorist activity, because what we tell them to look for will in part determine what they see and don’t see.