Why, when we are such an intelligent species, do we often behave like idiots?
Why, when our brain tells us one thing, does that same brain believe something else?
Not only believe it, but preach it. Why do we take shortcuts that sooner or later will lead us to some kind of problem or another? Why are we willing to bet our last dollar on the same horse that lost all the rest of our money? Or, as my mother used to say, “Why, Patti, do you insist on cutting off your nose to upset your face?”
Hmmm. I hope I’ve outgrown this trend, but I’m not sure.
Yet the list of things we humans do that go against rational thinking could go on not just this column, but a year.
I like puzzles even though I hate math. Recently, I came across three puzzles, unfortunately all involving math, that would have helped explain our irrational instinctual reactions. Spoiler alert, five out of six college students out of the thousands to whom these riddles (developed by economist, Shane Frederick) managed to get only two out of three correct answers. A third missed them all.
Want to test your brain? Here they are:
A smartphone and case cost $110 in total. The phone costs $100 more than the case. How much does the case cost?
It takes 8 printers 8 minutes to print 8 brochures. How long would it take 24 printers to print 24 brochures.
In a field, there is a patch of weeds. Every day, the patch doubles in volume. It takes 30 days for the patch to cover the whole field. How long did the patch take to cover half the pitch.
Get them all? Beat the college kids? I’ll give you a hint. Whether you got the answers correct or not indicates how your brain is working. Is he cautious and slow or is he impetuous and quick?
OK. Enough suspense. Here are the answers and the why of the answers.
Most people will answer $10 to the first question. I did it. Simple, I thought. Bad. If you’re not like me and you’ve taken the time to think about this one, you’ve realized that if $10 was the answer, the phone would cost $110 and both would cost not $110 but $120. Since they don’t, the answer is $5. Ugh.
Second. Don’t be fooled by the repetition of numbers. If 8 printers take 8 minutes to print 8 brochures, it takes 24 printers 24 minutes to print 24 brochures. The answer is 24.
Third. The answer is 29 days obtained by working backwards from when the field was fully covered to the day before. It doubled on the 29th day to be fully covered on the 30th.
Does getting the answers right indicate a slower but more rational brain?
Shit if I know. But it’s interesting to speculate.