Amy Herman '88 discusses the art of perception at Reunion College 2011.Three dozen spectators in a Kirby Hall lecture room are watching a video of two basketballs passed by a half dozen people. After the video ends they’re asked to count the number of passes. Their answers range wildly, from 11 to 26.

Amy Herman ’88 explains how to notice the important details.  Then they’re asked if they noticed the person in the gorilla suit who sauntered into the video, stopping to beat his or her chest before leaving the frame. Only half raise their hands.


Amy Herman ’88 uses this exercise to remind the audience that most viewers overlook the most obvious facts, especially when they’re confronted by conflicting information. Teaching people how to read complex scenes more accurately is a key component of “The Art of Perception,” her program aimed at improving observation and communication for people in positions of high responsibility. For 11 years the trained art historian and “recovering” lawyer has used pictures, particularly of works of art, to help everyone from nurses to law-enforcement officers create a sharper portrait of “the big picture.”

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