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ERIC Number: EJ984792
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jan-23
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Invisible Gorillas Are Everywhere
Pannapacker, William
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 2012
By now most everyone has heard about an experiment that goes something like this: Students dressed in black or white bounce a ball back and forth, and observers are asked to keep track of the bounces to team members in white shirts. While that's happening, another student dressed in a gorilla suit wanders into their midst, looks around, thumps his chest, then walks off, apparently unseen by most observers because they were so focused on the bouncing ball. "Voila": attention blindness. The invisible-gorilla experiment is featured in Cathy Davidson's new book, "Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn." Davidson is a founder of a nearly 7,000-member organization called Hastac (Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) that was started in 2002 to promote the use of digital technology in academe. It is closely affiliated with the digital humanities and reflects that movement's emphasis on collaboration among academics, technologists, publishers, and librarians. Last month the author attended Hastac's fifth conference, held at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In this article, the author discusses Davidson's keynote lecture which emphasized that many educational practices are not supported by what people know about human cognition. Most people are, presumably, the products of compulsory educational practices that were developed during the Industrial Revolution. And the way most of them teach is a relic of the steam age; it is designed to support a factory system by cultivating "attention, timeliness, standardization, hierarchy, specialization, and metrics." One could say it was based on the best research of the time, but the studies of Frederick Winslow Taylor, among others, that undergird the current educational regime (according to Davidson) depend upon faked data supporting the preconceptions of the managerial class. Human beings don't function like machines, and it takes a lot of discipline--what is called "classroom management"--to make them conform. Crucial perspectives are devalued and rejected, stifling innovation, collaboration, and diversity.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; Tel: 202-466-1000; Fax: 202-452-1033; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Michigan