A good friend of mine (Thank you Dries!) recently sent me a puzzle I had seen before but nonetheless is one of the best illustrations of what I wrote about in my first blog post concerning psychological categories. If you haven’t read it, please do so now before continuing. Categories.
Let’s begin looking at the puzzle.
Looks complicated doesn’t it? You look for patterns, add the numbers, maybe do something with the first and last number? It says programmers can solve it. Oh no, it sounds even more complicated and even scary! But pre-school children too? Huh? Can they even count?
Spoiler, don’t read further unless you want to know the answer!
Pre-school children are just starting out in their life of conditioning. They really do see things differently. So what are they seeing that the rest of us miss?
In one of my psychology tutorials whilst doing my degree, where we were debating about things, I declared that numbers, mathematics, calculus etc. did not exist. I argued that these were just human explanations of part of our world so we can better organise how we make sense of things in our minds. And very useful they are too! But if all humans disappeared from this planet tomorrow the letters you’re reading now would not be words, but strange squiggly lines that seem to conform to certain parameters.
The answer to the puzzle is that the numerical single digit value on the right of each equal sign is the number of loops/circles that are in the set of four numbers to the left. For example, an 8 has two loops in it’s shape, just as a 6 and 9 each have one. See? It’s easy isn’t it.
Why didn’t we see it immediately? There lies what I was referring to in my first blog post as to the absolute power of how categories are triggered in our minds and how can they stop us seeing what was there all along. It isn’t just about puzzles, it applies to every thought you have. Think about it. They are useful to say the least, as they stop us having to think everything through every single time. But they also can have huge negative consequences when trying to deal with an issue. Take a step back and see if you’re making an assumption which could unlock where you want to be.
Failing that ask a 3 year old to help you out.