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.

According to NPR:

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.

  1. That’s not a gorilla, that’s WALDO! I finally found Waldo.

  2. deowll says:

    It does underline a problem.

  3. bobbo, the ONLY true Libertarian on this blog, all others being dogmatic posers says:

    Yeah, but… what were the radiologists told to find? “Find any cancer…. or …. find any gorilla?”

    IOW–more interesting would be how many cancers did they miss?

    Its how specialty medicine works.

  4. MikeN says:

    Except it was a Catscan not an X-ray, so the picture is flawed.

    Now Blue Cross is a ripoff for making you pay for a catscan in your particular package?

    • Bob says:

      I know horrible concept. Making someone actually pay for the service they consume. Insanity!!!

  5. US says:

    When I get a cat scan for gorillas in my lungs I’ll worry. As long as they are actually looking for cancer that is what matters. They are focused on finding the signs of cancer, being hyperfocused on that and missing a fake gorilla added doesn’t concern me.

    This is no different than a really good basketball talent scout noticing all the details of a players playing ability and missing what color shorts they had on. Its about what the goal is, sometimes narrow focus is more important than general high level stuff.

  6. Dallas says:

    ” That effect is called “inattentional blindness”

    They must be Republican radiologists ! Ouch, I know that wasn’t necessary

    • With the rising price of gasoline, I’m surprised you have so much extra to just throw on a fire like that, Dallas 😉

    • gorgo says:

      If they were republican radiologists the would see gorillas everywhere.

    • Bob says:

      What Dallas, no teabagger comment yet? Your slipping.

      • Dallas says:

        I slowly backing away from Teabagger for a good reason and using Teapublican and Republican interchangeably.

        Remember what happened : the Teabagger parasite attached itself to the GOP host organism whereby the resulting new organism (Teapublican) is now governed by the invading parasite.

  7. msbpodcast says:

    That’s why I’d trust a medical diagnosis done by a Watson based system before a doctor’s.

    Machines don’t get tired, drunk the night before, distracted by some nurse’s bulges (arms, boobs or butt,) or have a unworkable cockamamie theory about what might be wrong with me.

  8. WmDE says:


    • If that’s a chronic shortness of breath caused by a gorilla in his lungs, I’d say your diagnosis is spot-on, doctor. Kudos!

      • WmDE says:

        Further study of the image leads me to believe that figure of the gorilla has more human proportions than that of the gorilla. I suspect it is a man wearing a gorilla costume. If so it is a case of Pneumopsuedosimianitis.

  9. John Aswipe says:

    Doc, I don’t feel so good. I think I have a monkey in my lung.

  10. bobbo, the ONLY true Libertarian on this blog, all others being dogmatic posers says:

    So, PedoBear….. I see the source of your umbrage at my comment that I was a healthcare expert. You claim that status as well, and to a certain degree so does Mpod. By “expert” I only mean having spent 20 or so years working for a living in some aspect of the huge appellation. All three of us have expertise all in different aspects of the subject, perhaps even with very little overlap.

    I think I have to add WmDE for the healthcare humor aspect if nothing else. Excellent word play although I think pseudo when used should always come first?… or not…. I suppose its an issue of emPHAsis? But I digress.

    Did Watson ever play chess? Grow out of Big Blue? The algorithms/programming is totally different. I read months ago Watson was going to be used as a medical consultant. Lots of potential for malpractice reform following protocols, checking with Watson and so forth. Better medicine, save money. All kinds of good stuff.

    Let me re-read Mpod……two year doctor strike? Hard to believe. It does seem perplexing though..the statistics when doctors, nurses, hospitals aren’t available and death rates go down…usually only for short periods and that even makes sense. Longer periods like 2 years doesn’t make so much sense.

    My mother’s lung cancers was quite advanced before it was picked up by a substitute physician filling in for her regular doc who was on vacation. Pure negligence in my book for the regular doc not to have ordered a xray every few years in a patient who smoked for years. Googling the issue, found out the standard of care does not require screening xrays for lung cancer. Evidently you just wait until you can’t breathe, then you get the xray. Doesn’t sound like too much “defensive medicine” going on for lung cancer. Prejudice against smokers is what I think. ///// But I post to concur with Pedro, assuming what he says is correct. Things can be hard to diagnose. I suppose in a few years, your grand kiddies will be advised of potential risk for MS neonatally via genetic mapping? Too many stories about people having to self diagnose to ignore the benefits of having a concerned diligent doctor on the case, rather than having them spending their free time thinking about their joint venture investments. Lots could be improved about medical care system. Did I mention I was an expert in that? Ha. ha.

    BUT–if I were you, I would have spent a lot of time tracing the details of what was known when and how a diagnosis could have/should have come any quicker. “But” without a cure, what difference does it really make??? Tv show Elementary last night had show about a geneticist “giving” RICH people a genetic disease so that on their early death they would be motivated to fund his research to cure the disease which he had as well. Nice twist all to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Every life has its challenges. The pros and the cons. Recognize both sides, add them up. “Try” to focus on the good. Its what life is all about.

  11. LaMoora says:

    I’m sure the 17% of radiologists that did see the gorilla were going WTF?

  12. Bowsy says:

    I don’t see a gorilla either. Although admittedly I have no medical knowledge or training.


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