Can You Solve This?

Sometimes the solution to a problem is so obvious that your brain just stops working. Asking it to continue to look for a solution is frankly an insult to its information processing abilities. This is why it’s sometimes so easy to be wrong whilst being convinced you’re right.

In fact, that’s exactly what happens to the people in this video. They’re approached by a man with a simple three digit sequence (2, 4, 8), and then asked to figure out what rule he is using to generate the sequence. He won’t give them clues to help them get the answer, but they can give him a three digit sequence of their own, and he’ll tell them whether their sequence fits his rule or not.

Like you probably have, they come up with a rule fairly quickly, but it’s not the rule the man has in mind. But what happens next is interesting. Instead of proposing sequences which don’t fit their previous rule, but might give them insight into his, they just keep proposing the sequences that fit their assumption. Even though he’s told them this isn’t correct.

They get stuck on their original idea so completely that they become incapable of looking for a different solution (even though the actual solution is very easy to find). Here’s how he summed it up with the people he approached once they’d figured it out (or given up)..

I was looking for you guys to propose a set of numbers that didn’t follow your rule, and didn’t follow my rule [Ed: I think he meant to say “and might have followed my rule” here]. I was looking for you guys not to try to confirm what you believed…You’re always asking something where you expect the answer to be yes, right? You wanna get the “no” because that’s much more informational for you than the “yes”.

In all kinds of spheres, it’s tempting to stick with the first answer that feels right and defend it rather than putting it aside and looking for others. But as this simple little experiment shows, sometimes that’s the only way to see the other answers that are staring you in the face.