I venture to guess that those of us in the business of fooling people would assume that they, themselves, might be less likely to be fooled. But that’s a dangerous assumption, and I posit that the opposite might actually be true.
Because the minute you think you have some expertise in any fooling game, you are more likely to let your guard down. And mother nature can still outwit the savviest fooler. Take the photo to the right. The lines are actually horizontal to each other, but just try and see them as horizontal. Can’t do it, can you? It’s called the Café Wall Illusion, and the vertical zig zag pattern disrupts your horizontal perception. Sorry!
But this effect is not confined to vision. Sometimes we are fooled by grammar. Take the phrase, “All but one ship was sunk.” Sounds right, and most of us would feel comfortable saying it that way. But, the correct verb is the plural – “were”. The verb should reflect all of the ships that were NOT sunk. Not the one ship that WAS sunk. It feels wrong to say, “All but one of the ships WERE sunk”, doesn’t it? You were fooled by your own sense of what sounds correct.
And we can be fooled by numbers. Take this statistical illusion – There were 100 people, and one of them was given 100 dollars bills. The other 99 were given nothing. Statistically, the average person in this group received $1. Scary, isn’t it?
You can also be fooled by logic. Take this puzzle: Three travelers stop at a hotel and ask the front desk clerk “If we stay in the same room, what will the price be?” The clerk says, It will be $30”. (obviously this happened 40 years ago.) The travelers each hand the clerk a $10 bill. After they go to their room, the clerk remembers that there is a special going that night, and the room is actually $25. So, he gives five singles to the bell boy, and sends him up to the room to return the money. The bellboy realizes that the travelers will never know the difference, and he only give them $3 (one dollar to each traveler) and pockets the other two dollars. So, the travelers have paid $9 each. 3 x9 = 27; plus the $2 the bellboy kept equals $29. Where’s the other dollar?
Because the logic of this last equation feels correct, we fail to realize that the math is all wrong! By adding the $2 the bell boy kept to the $27 dollars the travelers paid, you are actually adding the $2 twice. It is already in the $27 amount. ($25 the clerk has, plus $2 the bell boy has.) The amount that is missing, and the one that would solve the missing dollar problem, is the $3 the travelers got back! $3 x $9 + $3 = 30. Feels wrong, but it is RIGHT!
And finally, one of my favorite trick questions. Try answering the question out loud, before you look at the answer below. “How many animals, OF EACH SEX, did Moses take on the ark?
If you said one, you are wrong. The answer is zero! Moses didn’t go on the ark – it was Noah! No one is immune to the confusingly deceptive nature of how the human brain works.