Inattentional Blindness

Inattentional Blindness

The following story comes from Mark Batterson’s weekly blog: The Invisible Gorilla (

Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons conducted an experiment at Harvard University more than a decade ago that became infamous in psychology circles. Their book The Invisible Gorilla popularized it. And you may be one of the millions of viewers who made their Selective Attention Test one of YouTube’s most-watched videos.

The two researchers filmed students passing basketballs while moving in a circular fashion. In the middle of the short film, a woman dressed in a gorilla suit walks into the frame, beats her chest, and walks out of the frame. The sequence takes nine seconds in the minute-long video. Viewers are given specific instructions: “Count the number of passes by players wearing white shirts.” Of course, the researchers were not interested in their pass-counting ability. They wanted to see if the viewers would notice something they weren’t looking for, something as obvious as a gorilla. Amazingly, half of the test group did not.

How is that even possible? How do you miss the gorilla in the room?

The short answer is inattentional blindness.

Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice something in your field of vision because you are focused on something else, in this case people in white shirts passing basketballs.

Inattentional blindness can be as intentional as turning a blind eye to something you don’t want to see. It can also be as unintentional as fading awareness of the constants in your life that you take for granted over time. Either way, it’s one of the greatest threats to spiritual vitality. One of the truest tests of spiritual maturity is seeing the miraculous in the monotonous.

During this time of the year (December), we get “inattentional blindness” about the Christmas story. Why is that? We’ve heard it dozens or even hundreds of times, but it flies right past us.

Try this…

Block off about 30 minutes of time and copy (write) the Christmas story word-for-word into your LifeJournal. You can use the daily page, a journaling page, or one of the note-taking pages. The story is found in Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 1:18-2:12. It’s a fair amount to write but you’ll be surprised how quickly it goes by. As you write, imagine in your mind what is happening and how each person was acting and responding.

When you finish, take a few minutes to record how you would have felt and acted if you had been one of the people in the story…Joseph, Mary, the parents of Mary or Joseph, the innkeeper, one of the shepherds, or one of the magi (wise men).