Humans have possibly looked in the wrong direction when it comes to hunting for signs of non-terrestrial life. Researchers in Spain cited that a cosmic gorilla effect could blind the detection of aliens.
In the well-known Invisible gorilla experiment, which involves looking at a group of people bouncing a ball, researchers found that half of the participants who focused on counting the passes tend to miss detecting a gorilla crossing the stage.
"It was as though the gorilla was invisible," Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, who were behind the experiment, said. "This experiment reveals two things: that we are missing a lot of what goes on around us, and that we have no idea that we are missing so much."
The effect may also help explain why humans fail to detect alien life. In a study published in Acta Astronautica, Gabriel de la Torre and Manuel García, from the University of Cadiz in Spain, said that something similar could be happening when humans try to find intelligent alien signals.
Cosmic Gorilla Effect
Inspired by the gorilla experiment that showed the inattention blindness of humans when they are busy in something else, the researchers conducted an experiment involving 137 people.
The participants had to distinguish aerial photographs with artificial structures from those with natural elements such as mountains and river. The researchers inserted a tiny character disguised as a gorilla in one of the images to see if the participants can notice it. The experiment yielded results similar to those of the original gorilla experiment.
The researchers nonetheless observed that intuitive individuals were more likely to identify the gorilla on the photo than those who are more methodical and rational. They said that if this is translated to the search for other non-terrestrial beings, current strategies employed may result in failing to detect the "gorilla."
Dimensions That Evade Human Perception
The researchers said that intelligent extraterrestrial life possibly manifests in dimensions that evade human perception such as the unknown dark matter.
They said that a limited understanding of the elusive dark matter and energy could make humans blind to signals of alien life, particularly because of their tendency to see other intelligent beings based on their own perception.
"What we are trying to do with this differentiation is to contemplate other possibilities -- he says-, for example, beings of dimensions that our mind cannot grasp; or intelligences based on dark matter or energy forms, which make up almost 95% of the universe and which we are only beginning to glimpse," de la Torre said.