Cognitive Daily

Cool visual attention experiment

This is a fun little study. The instructions are embedded in the video.

Did you get it right? Have you seen this study before?

It’s based on an experiment by Daniel Simons. You can find another demonstration here.


  1. #1 Tim
    September 11, 2007

    Missed the woman with the umbrella the first time around, but surprised myself by counting exactly 20 passes.

  2. #2 Joel
    September 11, 2007

    See, I went the other way. I completely failed to count passes (too much going on, got muddled early), but did see the woman with the umbrella as she walked off the left side of the screen.

    Not sure what it says to be observant enough to spot the unusual item, but completely fail at the assigned task.

  3. #3 Vincent
    September 11, 2007

    Surprised myself by counting 19 total, and of course completely missing the woman.

    However, after counting 7-8, I noticed a correlation between the passes and a beep sound, and ended up counting only the beeps 🙂

  4. #4 Rodolfo Hansen
    September 11, 2007

    Wow.. I missed both the beeps and the woman.

  5. #5 Stephen Downes
    September 11, 2007

    I was watching for the guy in the gorilla suit.

  6. #6 Tim
    September 11, 2007

    I noticed the beeps, too, but figured they were probably there to distract me from counting accurately, so I tried my best to ignore them. A couple of the passes were a bit hard to make out, which is why I was so surprised when it stopped on my 20th count and it was revealed.

  7. #7 Jeffrey
    September 11, 2007

    I guessed it was one of those “man in a gorilla suit” videos so was too busy watching for thing I was supposed to not see to count the passes.

  8. #8 The Ridger
    September 11, 2007

    I too figured the beeps were like the woman counting so I ignored them. I watched the basketball the black-shirts started with and nothing else, though it was kind of confusing. I did get 20 passes, but was prepared to have missed a couple. And missed the women entirely.

  9. #9 Phillip Rhodes
    September 11, 2007

    Like joel I didn’t do much on counting the passes, but saw the woman with the umbrella. Not sure what that means.

  10. #10 Chris
    September 11, 2007

    I saw the woman although I didn’t see an umbrella. What did the experimenter say that the purpose of the beeps was?

  11. #11 Alex
    September 11, 2007

    Got both 20, and the woman with the umbrella. (The trick is to unfocus your eyes a bit, to be a bit unfocused on specific details to see the whole picture. I guess I do this as normal) I’ve got three kids, a dog, and I play drums, so maybe that would explain it. 🙂

  12. #12 Arnaldo
    September 12, 2007

    I counted 18 and saw the woman and the umbrella.

    I guess two children at home all the time, while I write code, makes focusing ‘difficult’ – as the mind gets used to fast task switching, it’ll try to follow that pattern all the time.

  13. #13 Tom B
    September 12, 2007

    I only missed 4 passes. I saw the woman. She was fully draped and had an umbrella.

  14. #14 blf
    September 13, 2007

    Like others, I figured there would be a gorilla suit. (I’ve never actually seen any gorilla suit film, but I have seen stills from one.) There wasn’t any gorilla, but I did see the woman with an umbrella. I didn’t even try to count the passes, and couldn’t say if there were nil, five, eight hundred seventy two, or minus eleven (albeit some of those counts are clearly implausible or impossible). I was a bit disoriented since it seemed some of the figures weren’t quite right, possibly translucent, and I failed to notice any shadows.

  15. #15 Grace C
    September 13, 2007

    I wonder if the beeps helped or hurt or were a possible confound in this study, which was on visual attention…Like Vincent and Tim, I noticed the beeps (but not the pattern, so I ignored them). Try this on a fresh batch of people with the sound off – would they a) be more or less accurate at counting passes? b) notice or not notice the woman with the umbrella?

  16. #16 Dave Munger
    September 13, 2007

    No need to repeat the study — it’s been done dozens of times. Greta shows the gorilla video to her class every year, and every year they’re all fooled. The beeps might have something to do with it, but I suspect the real reason so few of our readers (or at least the ones who commented) were fooled is that they were either familiar with the original study or just naturally suspicious.

  17. #17 AR
    September 17, 2007

    Got both the passes and the woman right but missed the umbrella. I’m single and code for a living – should I maintain this pattern?

  18. #18 Ulf-Dietrich Reips
    September 30, 2007

    Credit should properly be given to Ulrich Neisser ( who first had the idea to demonstrate selective attention by creating a movie showing a woman with an umbrella and instructing people to count other stuff. Simons later took that idea and created a movie that featured an actor dressed as gorilla in place of the woman.
    Best –u

New comments have been disabled.