The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

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by Christopher Chabris, Daniel Simons

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Helen pressed her finger­tips hard against her mother’s portrait. Her aunt was still engaged with Lady Gardwell. Could she risk showing it? “Millicent,” she whispered, her heart beating hard. “Look.” She opened her hand, giving a glimpse of the miniature tied to her fan, then snapped her fingers shut.

Her friend gasped. “I


Helen pressed her finger­tips hard against her mother’s portrait. Her aunt was still engaged with Lady Gardwell. Could she risk showing it? “Millicent,” she whispered, her heart beating hard. “Look.” She opened her hand, giving a glimpse of the miniature tied to her fan, then snapped her fingers shut.

Her friend gasped. “I cannot believe you have brought that here.” She studied Helen’s face, a crease of concern between her brows. “I may not have your ability to read expressions, but I can see something has happened.”

Helen gave a tiny shrug.

“Your uncle?”

She tucked in her chin.

Millicent nodded her understanding. “Well, don’t let him find out you carried it here. I want my best friend at my ball.”

“He won’t. It is just . . .” She stared down at her closed hand. “My mother is not here.”

“Yes,” Millicent said. “Yes, I know.” She flicked open her fan, waving it briskly as if she could fan away Helen’s despondency. “I feel as if I will jump from my skin at any moment. I wish it were all over. Tell me some news that will keep me from conjuring visions of tripping over my train or bungling my curtsy.”

“I have just the thing,” Helen said, allowing her friend to shift her mood. “Look behind me. Do you see that dark-haired man over there, standing by the fireplace?”

Millicent peered across the room. “You mean the one headed over here, with Mr. Brummell?”

Even as Helen turned, she felt her aunt’s hand close around her arm. “Helen, dear, I believe Mr. Brummell is heading our way. Remember to smile.”

“Is that Lord Carlston with him, Lady Pennworth?” Millicent’s mother asked, squinting. Her voice rang uncharacteristically sharp.

“I believe it is, Lady Gardwell.” In contrast, Aunt Leonore’s tone had a sudden wariness.

“You are related to him, are you not?”

Helen felt the air chill markedly between the two women. Both had smiles fixed upon their faces.

Lady Gardwell finally broke the loaded silence. “I would not want my daughter or myself to be in the way of a family reunion,” she said. “Please excuse us. Bonne chance, Lady Helen.” She sketched a quick curtsy to them both. “Come, Millicent, I see an acquaintance ahead.”

She caught her daughter’s hand and pulled her into the crowd. Helen stared after them, Millicent’s bewildered backward gaze meeting her own astonishment. “Related?” Helen said as she lost sight of her friend. “We are related to him?”

Aunt Leonore touched the diamonds at her throat, her color high under the powder on her cheeks. “Well, not directly by blood. He is your uncle’s second cousin. I had hoped he would have the decency not to claim the connection.”

So, Lord Carlston was related to her uncle. She could readily believe it; both men seemed to look upon the world with disdain. “Why did no one tell me?” she asked. “Does Andrew know?”

“Yes, but it is hardly a connection that we are falling over our­selves to acknowledge. And who knew the man would come back? We all hoped he had gone for good.” Her aunt grabbed hold of her arm again, the jolt shifting Helen’s grip on the miniature. “Don’t waste your time thinking on Carlston, my dear. It is Mr. Brummell who is important. It is he who can make you all the rage. Remember, charm and modesty. And smile!”

Helen barely had time to do so before the two men stood before them. Mr. Brummell bowed, cool appraisal on his attractive face. He had broken his nose at some point, and the slight flatten­ing disrupted the symmetry of his features. In Helen’s opinion, it added a certain manliness, saving his good looks from blandness. Aunt Leonore gave a nod of acknowledgment that set her plume shivering. “Mr. Brummell, how lovely to see you again.”

Helen felt a ripple of movement around them. People were edging back with sidelong glances. Were they moving away in def­erence to Mr. Brummell, or disgust at Carlston? A quick survey of the surrounding faces gave the answer. It seemed Mr. Brummell’s famous influence was not enough to make Lord Carlston palat­able. Not yet, anyway.

“It is always a pleasure, madam,” Mr. Brummell said, bowing once more. Helen felt herself under his appraisal again, his curi­osity evident in the slight lift of his brows. Then, with an elegant hand, he indicated Lord Carlston. “Lady Pennworth, may I pres­ent the Earl of Carlston.”

Aunt bent her neck in frigid acknowledgment. “Lord Carlston.”

The Earl inclined his head. “Madam.”

Lord Carlston was handsome, Helen conceded, in a hard, angu­lar way that made the men around him seem somewhat effeminate. Yet there was a ruthlessness to the set of his mouth that was decid­edly repellent. His skin was unfashionably tanned—both Andrew and Aunt had mentioned he had been on the Continent—and the brown of his eyes was so dark that it merged with the black pupil, making their expression impenetrable. It was very disconcerting and gave him a flat look of soullessness, like the eyes of the pre­served shark she had seen in the new Egyptian Hall. Helen lifted her bare shoulders against a sudden chill. How apt. There could be no soul in this man: he was a murderer. And possibly an abductor. She wrapped her fingers more firmly around the head of the fan and the miniature. Just in time, for her aunt was turning to intro­duce the men.

“My dear, allow me to present the Earl of Carlston and Mr. Brummell. Gentlemen, this is my niece, the Lady Helen Wrexhall.”

Helen dipped into her curtsy but did not lower her eyes as modesty decreed, instead studying Lord Carlston as he bowed. He was studying her just as closely, his gaze far too penetrating for politeness. For a long moment they observed one another. Well, he could look with those dark shark eyes all he liked. He would not find much in her face either.

“Lord Carlston, Mr. Brummell,” she said, rising from her curtsy and sweeping an aloof glance over them both. Andrew might have warned her to keep her distance from his lordship, but she could hardly embarrass her aunt by refusing the introduction. And it was an excellent chance to read the man. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Carlston was still watching her closely. “Lady Helen, it is indeed a delight,” he said. “Particularly since we are related.”

“Distantly,” Aunt said, her mouth small.

Carlston smiled, and it held all the superiority of his rank. “And yet irrefutably.”

Aunt Leonore’s mouth buckled tighter. Mr. Brummell cleared his throat. A sign to Carlston of some kind, for the Earl imme­diately swept a calculating gaze across the far side of the room. Helen was sorely tempted to look in the same direction, but it would mean too pointed a turn. Whatever he saw prompted no expression on his face. Lord Carlston gave away nothing.

He fixed his gaze on her again and smiled. Helen fancied it was the look of a wolf before it leaped. “Lady Helen, I see that you carry a Vernis Martin fan.”

She clenched her hand around the fan rivet and miniature, her own smile stiffening into a rictus. Of all things, why did he ask about her fan? Her free hand found the base of her throat, as if its span could hide the flush of heat that rose into her face.

“I am a great connoisseur of fans,” he added.

“Really? Of fans?” She kept a stranglehold on her own. “And do you have much cause to use them?”

Mr. Brummell’s shoulders shook as if he was suppressing a laugh. “Yes, do you, Carlston?” he asked.

Aunt Leonore widened her eyes in warning. “Helen, dear, I am sure Lord Carlston merely has an interest.”

“I do, madam.” He was lying—no doubt of it—although he gave none of the usual telltale signs of deception. No rapid blink or hard swallow. “Would you allow me to inspect your example, Lady Helen?”

“It is nothing out of the ordinary, Lord Carlston,” she said, ral­lying a smile as false as his own. Why was he so insistent? But she could not pass the fan over. What if her aunt’s quick eye found the portrait? “I’m sure it can be of no interest to such an expert.”

“A Vernis Martin is always out of the ordinary, Lady Helen.” He held out his hand.

Helen lifted her chin, meeting his challenge. No, she thought savagely. No, I will not. For a moment she saw something surpris­ing in those shark eyes. Sympathy. Was he playing some game?
“Helen, show Lord Carlston your fan,” her aunt ordered.

“I cannot believe you are serious, sir,” she said, trying to conjure the same teasing tone that Millicent used with her many admirers. “I feel sure you are funning with me.”

“You will find that I am always serious, Lady Helen.”

“Show him, my dear,” her aunt hissed, the real message plain in the tilt of her head: Show him the fan so that we may be rid of him.

He extended his hand toward her, his gaze steady and infu­riatingly indifferent. He knew she could not refuse him. The discourtesy would be unforgiveable, and her aunt would probably wrench the fan from her grasp and give it to him anyway. So be it. Raising her chin higher, she pushed the riveted end into his hand, pressing the miniature into his palm. She drew back her shoul­ders, ready for discovery. Aunt was going to be furious.

He flicked open the sticks, the curve of his large hand cra­dling the end, shielding it from sight. She drew in a steadying breath. Any moment now. He bent his head to study the painted panorama. Why was he waiting? He could obviously see the miniature—he had it in his hand—but he was not reacting. In fact, he was keeping it hidden.

“A very pretty fan,” he said, but she saw the tiniest of creases between his dark brows. If she had to hazard a guess, underneath all that implacable control, Lord Carlston was aghast.
He looked up, the weight of his silence drawing all attention to his next words. She stayed as still as possible. If she did not move, perhaps he would just give it back.

“Was this represented to you as an original Vernis Martin?” he asked.

Helen exhaled. A reprieve. But why?

Her aunt drew herself up, all pinched indignation. “I will have you know that the fan was a gift from her uncle, Viscount Pennworth.”

“A lovely gift,” Carlston said blandly.

He closed the fan with a snap and passed it back to Helen. Even as she took the end, she knew it was too light. The miniature was gone. Had it fallen? She glanced down, but it was not on the floor. A piece of blue riband was still caught between the sticks. Sliced clean. He must have cut it off, but she had seen no knife. Her fingers closed convulsively around the rivet. Was he looking for some kind of vaporish response? Well, he would not have it. She forced indifference into her face and saw another flicker in those dark eyes. Amusement. A surge of hot fury caught her in the chest. Why was he doing this? It did not make sense.

“I believe we must make way for others who wish to make your acquaintance, Lady Helen,” he said, bowing. “It has been a pleasure.”

He was leaving. With her mother’s portrait. No!

“Lord Carlston, I do hope you will visit us,” she blurted, stop­ping his withdrawal. Beside him, Mr. Brummell paused in his own bow, eyebrows raised at her impropriety. “I mean,” Helen contin­ued doggedly, “will you do us the honor of calling on us tomorrow? Since we are family.” She dragged up a smile as tight as a fist.

“Helen!” her aunt said.

The amusement deepened in Lord Carlston’s eyes, bring­ing a sudden warmth to their flat scrutiny.
“Since we are family, Lady Helen, I would be delighted to call tomorrow. As would Mr. Brummell.”
Mr. Brummell smiled, but Helen could see the irritation buried within it. “Yes, a pleasure, madam. Until tomorrow, then.”

It seemed that even the mighty Mr. Brummell bowed to Lord Carlston’s will.

“Tomorrow,” Aunt Leonore echoed faintly.

The two men withdrew, the crowd parting around them.

Helen clenched the fan, keeping track of Carlston’s straight back through the shift of bodies and undulating feathers. Never before had she felt such a strong desire to slap someone. Or worse, to scream her outrage.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Regency balls, rebellious heiresses, and demonic creatures feeding on humans: not your mother's Regency romance. Lady Helen Wrexhall, a traitor's daughter just beginning her Season, learns she is special for reasons beyond parentage or inheritance. She is a Reclaimer, one of a handful of gifted humans who fight Deceivers, humanoid creatures that feed upon human life force through, variously, suffering, bloodlust, sexual climax, and creativity. A proper young lady of the Regency period, the scope of the Deceivers' desires shocks Helen even more than the onset of supernatural abilities. Despite the commercial premise and promise, this is neither entirely page-turning adventure nor romance. Goodman's prose is assured; her impeccable research shines through on every page (sometimes to the detriment of pacing) and brings to life questions of freedom and choice for women. Helen is torn between two men, one who speaks to the powerful, somewhat unnatural, and certainly societally unacceptable side of herself and the other who offers a life of privilege and propriety; the question of which self she will choose creates more tension than the question of which man (too, this is first in a series, which rather telegraphs her ultimate choice). Readers willing to embrace the deep, deliberately paced journey will find the pace and tension increasing until the end leaves them eager for the next volume. (Historical fantasy. 13 & up)

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Meet the Author

CHRISTOPHER CHABRIS and DANIEL SIMONS are cognitive psychologists who have each received accolades for their research on a wide range of topics. Their “Gorillas in Our Midst” study reveals the dark side of our ability to pay attention and has quickly become one of the best-known experiments in all of psychology; it inspired a stage play and was even discussed by characters on C.S.I. Chabris, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard, is a psychology professor at Union College in New York. Simons, who received his Ph.D. from Cornell, is a psychology professor at the University of Illinois.

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The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
AngieMarie More than 1 year ago
I have been exposed to the famous psych experiment that gave this book its name several times and continue to be amazed at subjects' failure to see a huge gorilla walk through two teams of ball players. As a result I was immediately attracted to a book written by the psychologists who devised an experiment that was at the same time funny and yet insightful. Anyone who could devise such a clever experiment, I reasoned, can probably write a clever book. I wasn't wrong. As the subtitle says, this book is about illusions, the many ways our brains can deceive us. The authors discuss six common illusions, devoting a chapter to each: illusions of attention, memory, confidence, knowledge, cause, and potential. The illusion of attention involves our failure to notice other events in the environment when we are concentrating on one specific thing. The illusion of memory involves the distortion and embellishment that affect our memories, especially for events that have a high emotional impact. The illusion of confidence makes us tend to overrate our own abilities and also to interpret another person's confidence as a sign of ability. The illusion of knowledge involves implicitly believing you know more than you actually do. The illusion of cause refers to our inclination to find causal relationships where none exist and arises from the human inclination to find meaning in patterns, to infer causal relationships from coincidences, and to infer that earlier events cause later ones. Finally, the illusion of potential describes the effects of the widespread belief that the human mind has unlimited potential and that we use only a small part of our capacity. (This last "illusion", while interesting and valid, seemed to me to be a different kind of animal from the other illusions, and not quite to fit in the book.) Each illusion is illustrated by relevant examples, some funny and some tragic, including the fear that vaccination causes autism, an incident where a group of police officers seriously beat up a fellow officer because they mistook him for a suspect who they believed had shot another policeman, a false memory of a dinner with actor Patrick Stewart, and, of course, the gorilla experiment. There is some discussion of why these illusions exist, generally an evolutionary explanation. I personally would have liked to see more of the cognitive or brain science behind the illusions, and I am sure the authors would have loved to include it, but they cannot write about what is not yet known, so I will not fault them for the omissions. This is not a self-help book that gives the "magic key" to avoiding illusions, and the authors admit that they themselves can fall prey to illusory thinking, but they believe that knowing about the mental traps can help us to identify them in ourselves and others. In the last chapter, like good professors everywhere, the authors test the readers' mastery of the material with a delightful parody of a CEO profile of the sort found in Sunday newspapers or business magazines. The reader is asked to identify the illusions contained in the profile. I know I did better at the end of the book than I would have before I read it. I learned some things and raised my awareness. I believe you will, too, and recommend it to anyone interested in how our minds work and how we might make them work just a bit better.
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