APA Senior Scientist Brett Pelham, PhD, juggled three balls to demonstrate the mind's ability to automate complex tasks at the Family Science Days portion of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting, Feb. 17-21, in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, APA staffers Jonathan Tin and Martha Boenau introduced children and their parents to puzzles and activities that required creative problem-solving.
During Pelham's 45-minute lecture, he introduced an audience of mostly children and parents to the questions psychological researchers seek to answer--such as how people focus their attention--through interactive demonstrations.
Pelham also illustrated how easily details can escape people's attention: He showed a video of two teams passing basketballs, and instructed the audience to count the passes made by one of the teams. In the middle of the video, a woman dressed in a gorilla suit walks through the scene--a detail most of the audience members missed, which surprised many. The gorilla-basketball demonstration was excerpted from research by psychology professors Daniel Simons, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Christopher Chabris, PhD, of Harvard University, published in Perception (Vol. 28, No. 9, pages 1,059-1,074).
"Research into this kind of phenomenon could eventually lead to improved accuracy in eyewitness testimony," Pelham said.