Riddle me this, riddle me that! Social media is littered with conundrums to knock your brain flat! “Only a genius can solve this” and so on are constant memes many of us see in our news feeds, but below is a brain teaser that even half of Harvard students cannot solve. The puzzle is as follows:
“A bat and ball cost $1.10.
The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?”
The knee-jerk response is to reply that the ball costs 10 cents. However, the answer is that the ball costs 5 cents. The answer exemplifies a process called “The Cognitive Reflection Test.” In a related YouTube video by Yale Professor, Shane Frederick, Cognitive Reflection is explained as a way to exploit a division in our natural methods of thinking. Our thoughts divide into two systems; system one thinking denotes the kind of rumination based on instinct, basic assumptions that lead many to conclude the ball costs 10 cents, with the bat $1 more at $1. System 2 Thinking prompts the brain to adopt a more analytical stance and glean that the ball is 5 cents, with the $1.05 bat costing a dollar more than the ball.
Professor Frederick maintains that more System 2 type thinking can quickly be adopted and tests back up his assertion. By utilizing a simple change, such as altering the size and font of text to a more difficult one, it forces the brain into a more analytical mode, increasing student marks considerably. The practice also helps with proofreading, because needing to concentrate more on a harder to read font, allows readers to ferret out more mistakes. So next time you need to do some revision, copy then paste your source, changing the size and font, you may get an A by looking at a differently shaped letter A.
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