Daniel is a renowned cognitive psychologist and author, whose research focuses on the limits of human attention, memory, and intelligence. His work challenges common beliefs about our abilities and helps us understand how we can improve our cognitive performance.


Daniel Simons is a professor of psychology, advertising, and business administration at the University of Illinois, where he heads the Visual Cognition Laboratory. His research explores the limits of awareness and memory, the reasons why we often are unaware of those limits, and the implications of such limits for our personal and professional lives. He is best known for his research that showing people are far less aware of their visual surroundings than they think.

Simons received his B.A. from Carleton College and his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Cornell University. He then spent five years on the faculty at Harvard University before being recruited to Illinois in 2002. He has published more than 100 articles for professional journals, and his work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research. He is a Fellow and Charter Member of the Association for Psychological Science and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, and he has received many awards for his research and teaching, including the 2003 Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association.

In addition to his scholarly research, he is the co-author (with Christopher Chabris) of the NY Times bestselling book, The Invisible Gorilla. He has penned articles for the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune (among others), and he appears regularly on radio and television. His work has been exhibited in more than a dozen science museums worldwide, and includes some of the best-known demonstrations in psychology.  

In 2023, Chabris and Simons co-authored a follow-up: Nobody's Fool: Why We Get Taken In and What We Can Do about It.

Speech topics

Becoming Nobody's Fool

Almost everyone knows to ignore emails from a Nigerian prince promising vast fortunes and to hide from the people who have been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty. The obviousness of scams like those leads to the mistaken belief that only extremely gullible, dim-witted, or exceptionally naive people get scammed. This misconception can lead to victim blaming and inefficient fraud-prevent training. In reality, even the best and brightest among us can be taken in when we're the target. To better stop fraud and deception, we need to examine why frauds work. To do that, we need to better understand why, when, and how the same cognitive tendencies that serve us well most of the time can be hijacked to deceive us. In this presentation, I describe how and why scams work and what you can do to become Nobody's Fool.

Preventing Fraud

In 2022, two Jimmy John's employees in Missouri were accused of stealing more than $100,000. Also in 2022, a Yale School of Medicine administrator was sentenced to 9 years in prison for stealing $40 million dollars. In both cases, the theft relied on gaming the systems that were in place to monitor transactions. In every domain from sales to finance to science, cheaters inevitably exploit loopholes and weaknesses. And in most of those domains, leaders and administrators rely on training and education to prevent fraud. Often, though, leaders don't think enough about the costs and benefits of fraud prevention or the effectiveness of training programs. In this presentation, I discuss why it is impossible to prevent all fraud, what we should do to evaluate whether the costs of fraud prevent outweigh the benefits. Often, thinking like a scammer can help us put up roadblocks to fraud without creating a culture of resentment and distrust among our co-workers and employees.

The Invisible Gorilla: What We See And What We Miss

If your message is vivid and memorable, your customers will see and remember it, right? Not necessarily. In this talk, Dan Simons, creator of the famous "invisible gorilla" psychology experiment, uses real-world stories and startling demonstrations to show how we all miss much more of what goes on around us than we realize. People won’t notice the gorilla in the room just because we think it’s obvious. By better understanding the gap between how we think we pay attention and remember and how we really pay attention and remember you will gain new insights into how your customer's mind works, allowing you to craft a more persuasive and compelling message. 

Invisible Gorilla Leadership

One of the greatest obstacles to effective leadership is faulty perception. Because of the way our minds are built, we often don't see the world as it really is. Instead, we see what we expect to see and believe what we want to believe, regardless of the evidence. In this talk, Dan Simons, creator of the famous "invisible gorilla" psychology experiment, reveals how common misconceptions about the mind can undermine our ability to lead. With real-world stories, personal anecdotes, and clever experiments, Simons leads the audience to question their assumptions about how they think and to see themselves—and those around them—as they really are. 

The Gorilla in the Operating Room

Everyone involved in healthcare makes high-stakes decisions. One key to effective decision-making is knowing when to trust your intuition and "go with your gut," and when to take a step back and think twice before choosing a course of action. In this talk, Dan Simons, creator of the famous "invisible gorilla" psychology experiment, shows how our decisions are often clouded by our intuitive ideas about how the mind works. With entertaining examples and surprising scientific studies, Simons will leave audience members with a deeper appreciation of how we all really think, and how to make better decisions in their own lives. 


Nobody's Fool: Why We Get Taken In and What We Can Do about It

Two New York Times-bestselling psychologists explain the science of cons—and how we can avoid them.

The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us 

The Invisible Gorilla reveals the myriad ways that our intuitions can deceive us, but it’s much more than a catalog of human failings.

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