How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Chabris

Opponent to Gay Marriage offer Illusory Arguments

The book The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Chabris and Simons truly makes a strong case for how six different types of illusions (or beliefs) truly disserve the human population. The six common illusions that the book discusses are the illusion of memory, the illusion of confidence, the illusion of knowledge, the illusion of cause and the illusion of potential. Chabris and Simon argue that one can see these illusions at work in a range of human interactions and current events. Sometimes these illusions demonstrate the fallibility of the human mind; sometimes they just demonstrate the need of human beings to impose meaning or order upon things or events which lack both.

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A current issue that demonstrates several of the six illusions that Chabris and Simons discuss is the debate over gay marriage. Those who oppose gay marriage often demonstrate an argument which is full of illusory and shoddy ideas. For example, one of the main arguments against gay marriage is that allowing homosexuals to marry will destroy the institution of marriage. This demonstrates the illusion of cause. “The illusion of cause arises when we see patterns in randomness, and we are most likely to see patterns when we think we understand what is causing them” (Chabris & Simons, p.155). The work of Stanley Kurtz tried to prove that allowing same-sex marriage in Denmark, Norway and Sweden decreased the rate of heterosexual marriage in these countries. Now, it’s important to note that the work was discredited; however, it is a shining example of how people can shoddily attempt to create a sense of cause for a series of random and unconnected events. Another illusion of cause that is often brought to the front of the gay marriage debate by those who oppose it is that children are impacted in a negative manner by being raised by lesbian or gay parents. Opponents use things like juvenile delinquency, juvenile offenders, and school drop-out rates as “evidence” for the damage of gay parenthood, but there has absolutely been no evidence of children being negatively impacted by being raised by gay parents. One could also argue that this viewpoint showcases the illusion of knowledge. Those who oppose gay marriage pretend to have knowledge about a phenomenon (dysfunctional children) and how they’re created, when really, they just know that some households raise dysfunctional children, without knowing how or why this happens. This is akin to the example that Chabris and Simons offer about financial markets: as human beings we have a range of information about how they work and what is currently going on with them at the present moment. This gives the illusion that they’re predictable or that we know what they’re going to do next, when in reality we don’t.

Another illusion that the gay marriage debate has swirled around that manifests the illusion of cause is the argument that if same-sex marriage is legalized, it will ultimately lead to polygamy. This argument, aside from lacking any real rationale, demonstrates how those who oppose gay marriage have no understanding of how a polygamist society would evolve or how polygamy works. It also demonstrates the illusion of knowledge, because it fails to understand that if the country was truly worried about polygamy becoming the norm, legislation could then be passed banning and illegalizing polygamy. Thus, this argument demonstrates a formidable lack of understanding or illusion of knowledge of the United States legal system.

Another illusion that those who oppose gay marriage assert is that legalizing gay marriage would require schools to teach tolerance. This demonstrates an illusion of knowledge because those who support this argument faultily seem to believe that teaching tolerance is something that is not essential to a public school education or that it’s not something that our young people could benefit from. This argument showcase an extremely lack of understanding of how the world works. America has had a rich history, but also one characterized by bloodshed as a result of intolerance: teaching our youngest members of society how to better tolerate and appreciate one another is something we definitely need more of. “America is the great “melting pot,” a rich blend of cultural traditions from all over the world. Many American families can trace their histories to immigrant ancestors who traveled great distances, enduring risk and hardship, to make a home where they would be guaranteed basic freedoms. And for many American families these freedoms came with a struggle. Their parents and grandparents were denied the basic rights we value. American society was founded on freedom from religious persecution and on tolerance of differences in beliefs and cultural heritage. The differences (or diversity) that come from people from all over the world enrich our culture, bringing new ideas and energy” ( This quote truly demonstrates how the foundations that this nation was built upon valued tolerance, and valued a place where different people with different needs and different preferences could be free and safe. Surely, as a society this is something we can apply to our gay members as well.

Other arguments against gay marriage show the same illusions of knowledge and cause. For example, take another argument against gay marriage which uses children as a reason for why gay marriage should not occur and why it’s corrosive to our society. “More children living in gay homes means more children living lives absent a relationship with at least one biological parent. One needn’t deny the existence of many wonderful gay or adoptive parents to acknowledge that this will result in some emotional pain and confusion” (Forman, 2011). This argument clearly makes an assumption based on things which the author knows nothing about. It’s clearly assumption, based not on research or experience, but based on an idea of “knowledge” and an illusory one at that. Furthermore, this same author offers up yet another illusory idea about gay marriage by saying “Federal Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling in August on California’s Proposition 8 – that “gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage” – confirmed the view that marriage is foremost about sexual choice, not reproduction. Think there are too few marriageable males now?” (Forman, 2011). The absurdity of this argument seems to propose that gay marriage should not be allowed so that women can have a more ample supply of men to marry from, even if some of those men are actually gay. This argument is founded on a shoddy understanding of marriage and human relationships, exhibiting extreme chasms in knowledge and both cause.

Thus, while most educated, tolerant people support gay marriage, there’s an influx of people who are guided by their fault intuitions and beliefs which are ultimately founded on hunches and ideas that all exhibit the same skewed logic. The most overwhelming illusions in these beliefs are the “illusion of knowledge” and the “illusion of cause” which all point to a lack of understanding of how the world works as well as a lack of understanding of human behavior.


Chabris, C., & Simons, D. (2009). The invisible gorilla: And other ways our intuitions deceive us. New York: Random House.

Forman, S. (2011, June 23). Five arguments against gay marriage: Society must brace for corrosive change. Retrieved from:

gay-marriage-society-brace-corrosive-change-article-1.131144 (n.d.). Teaching your child tolerance. Retrieved from

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