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Hi, everyone. It's your pal Josh for this week's is Case Selex. I've chosen how guessing works. It was one of those great ideas for a topic that didn't pan out to have much information on it, actually.
So we just talked a lot about subjective stuff instead.
And it turned out well, I think in the end, if I may say so, I hope you enjoy. Welcome to Stuff You Should Know. A production of pilot radios HowStuffWorks. Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles Doublecheck right there. He's over there in the corner. Everybody puts Jerry in the corner. Shouldn't and this is stuff we should not. She stops at a baby. Jerry's back. She's back from the mall where she's been.
Yeah. Remember, we we said that she was at the mall. She was buying a house. She's doing all sorts of stuff.
OK. But she's back now and things are normal again. Yeah, she was at the beach and she's now eating. In front of me, what I ate about an hour ago. Do you want to throw up or do you want more? I don't. It's this weird in between. I'm drawn to the smell, but I'm also full. So I'm kind of like, yeah.
Oh, man, what a life I know eating who needs it, right? Me, I do, too. I love eating. I love it. You know what else I love? What really good magic like illusions. Well, where does what do you mean, because that could mean two different things. Well, let me tell you.
So I went you mean I went to New York recently and we saw the show? Yeah. It's called In and of itself. It's a one man stage magic, I guess you could call it that illusionist show by a guy named Derek Delgaudio. I tell you his last name. I strongly recommend anyone go see this show. It's I think they extended it through the rest of the year. But it's it's like kind of his life story told, like through these different these different acts.
And like just the stuff he's doing is not like, oh, man, that rabbit came out of nowhere. Nothing like that. It's all much more psychological than that. Sure. But the basis of it is that this guy must be just one of the better guessers walking around today. He's just good. He's also like a card shark. It's just a really neat show. It's really original and different. Yes, but just to see somebody do something to where they probably are guessing, but they're doing such an amazing job at it that it just appears to be magic.
That's one of my favorite things in the world to see.
Like when he talks to people and like, think of a number, except obviously more fun and complex than that. Yes.
Yeah. And I don't want to give any of it away. I want to give any bit of it away. Like for anybody who's going to go see it, everyone should go into a fresh but but yeah. Just just after you see it go back and listen to this episode again and you'll be like, oh yeah, totally.
Now I think the deal a lot of times with that situation is powers of suggestion, correct?
I don't know. I don't know, man. I don't know if that's what this guy is doing or not. No, he's not doing like cold readings or something like that. Like John Edwards.
No, no, no, nothing like that. But powers of suggestion in that if you you can lead someone to to think of a certain thing, that they then guess that you're.
I guess so get it didn't even mean that.
But that kind of dives into what we're talking about, which is guessing in general. There's this whole like like science really doesn't have any idea about how we make guesses. All we know is that we are capable of making guesses and that we make guesses almost constantly, like our brain is basically set up to guess. Like our construction of reality is a series of guesses, most of which pan out to be right, but then can also be terribly wrong, which is what optical illusions prove, you know.
And I found this I thought it was going to be more interesting than it was initially when I picked this one out. And so I was a little disappointed. And then we found like other supplemental stuff that kind of helped it. But in the end, it felt a little unwieldy. But I think that's just because of the nature of the topic. Like there isn't a concise beginning, middle and end to this kind of topic, you know?
No, because, again, science is pretty well stumped, like even in sometimes check, if you'll remember, these can be our best episode. It's like unless the ones where there's just like a clear cut, completely understandable, neat explanation, those ones are great. And then on the other end of the spectrum, like this one, the ones where science is just kind of like maybe this is it, I don't know. Sure, this could be it.
Those are usually pretty good, too. So this kid, this one has has potential.
All right. That's my that's my estimation.
Well, I thought it was interesting that in our very own HowStuffWorks article, they started talking about the in days of yore with starting with talk talk and, you know, basically up until the point where we could like, you know, measure things or improve things, like there was a lot of I mean, there's still a lot of guessing going on. But but guessing was a daily survival tactic, right? That's how that's how we learn. Should I go this way and fall off a cliff?
You know, I'm going to take a guess or should I eat this thing? Will it kill me? Or like in the case of Lewis and Clark, I remember Clark estimated and, you know, there's guesses and we'll get to different types. But an estimation is a kind of a guess, even if it's informed and right. Well reasoned. And Clark's case, of course, he estimated I think it was only off by about 40 miles when they got to the Pacific.
Oh, really? I don't remember that.
Yeah, he he estimated four thousand one hundred and sixty two miles when he was off by he's off by forty.
I mean, that's how remarkable it is. But it was a wild guess. It was Clark being a very smart dude who probably took copious notes. Not probably. He definitely took copious notes. Right. But I don't know. I just never really thought about getting back in those days. Good. You know, you. You can end up a bad guess means the end of you. Yes, but if your friends were standing around watching you, guess that that lizard over there wasn't poisonous, it could just go ahead and eat it raw and then you keel over and die.
They learn from your bad guess.
It's called taking one for the team. It very much so, yeah. That's before the universal stability test. Man, you were just.
Have you been going through the archives or something? No, I wrote that article back then, so I kind of got that one stuck with me. Because, you know, I mean, I thought you were, too I'm cursed with that new information in all the information that you're getting squeezed out.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So she'll get into this, I guess so I'm not I don't mean to do this. I'm sorry. Well, it's I guess yeah, it's pretty commonplace, but it does kind of under underscore just how much we do guests in our lives, you know.
Yeah. Here's all right. Let's go ahead and start it with the brain then, because. Well, you're correct in saying that they don't know the the pathways necessarily of a guess. All different kinds of all different parts of the brain, not all the parts, but many different parts of the brain are at work, which makes a lot of sense when you think about what different kind of guesses can entail, whether you're guessing someone's age or guessing, you know, because that involves, like, you know, recognition with your eyeballs or a memory of someone else who was a certain age, who look like that, like your you know, recall there's all different parts of the brain that are lighting up, whatever you're guessing something.
Yeah. They think that it's a global a global phenomenon. Right. Like brain. Brain only global. Yes, exactly. Right.
So there's like some region of your brain that specializes in the particular task at hand. The thing you're guessing about, whether it's say like volume or like you said, someone's age, that region of the brain that that has to do with, say, numbers would light up. I think it's the parietal anterior gyrus or something like that that lights up when you're trying to guess someone's age based on how they look.
But that one, I think, right, using the wonder machine. Right. But that's just one functional part of the whole process that the brain's going through. They know that it's there's a number of different regions that are operating at any given point in time when you're making a guess. But they still can't say, well, if somebody's guessing, this is what's going to happen. Here's the here's the cascade that's going to go through the brain. We haven't reached that point yet.
Yeah. They think that if you're guessing about a visual object or subject, then your frontal lobe and occipital lobe are at work. Numerical quantities like how many jellybeans are in that jar? That's kind of the common thing. They mentioned that like that still happens, that sort of thing.
You know who is a jelly bean jar guessing champion? My wife really is, yes. Long standing. Her spatial reasoning is is outstanding.
Well, spatial reasoning and numerical quantities are a big part of trying to guess the quantity of something into something. Right. And so if you if your brain is kind of specialized in that manner, you are probably going to be better at it than somebody whose brain is not right. So Umu would beat me every time. My spatial reasoning is horrific, right? Yeah, but I'm really good at recognizing faces, so I'm probably better at guessing the someone's age based on their face or possibly how they're feeling based on their facial expression.
Then she might be.
Yeah, that's a whole like I didn't even think about that being part of guessing but the emotional thing of guessing. Yeah, like someone's feelings or what they're thinking like that, that's a whole different thing than guessing jellybeans in a jar, which is different than guessing someone's age. It's like all lumped in the guessing. It's really more varied than I ever considered.
Right. And so with with well, let's talk about the different different types of guesses you might make that. So I think what you just kind of did, Chuck, was you divided guesses into like buckets, two buckets. I'm trying to decide what the buckets would be called, though. So one bucket would be just kind of work, working knowledge and the other would be say like emotional. Right. Like, so how many jelly beans are in a jar that be in the working knowledge bucket?
What somebody's feeling based on your guess, based on, say, their facial expression. That's that's emotional or intellectual. That's right. Intellectual or emotional. Bucket's Bam just carved them up.
But I think those are kind of like the two categories you can put guesses into, even though you can break types of guesses down further.
Yeah. And breaking them down further. You have your wild guesses. This is when you have no information, no outside input whatsoever. And, you know, you often say this is just a wild guess. If I had to guess. Yeah.
You something like that you're saying here, listen to me, I can speak. It has no basis in fact or reality or anything like that.
Then you have your educated guess, which is in the middle, and that's when you have a little bit of information. There's a military term that I had never heard of called swag, which stands for stuff we all get. No scientific wild ass guessing. Oh, OK. Which is like a guesstimate, but it's a military term by all accounts.
Most people say it started in Vietnam with General Westmoreland and you will hear military people say swag. And that's when, you know, we got a little information. I'm not just wild guessing here. This is a ballpark educated guess, right?
But it's not bad. Still less than an estimate. That's why we have a lot more information. Yeah, not just a lot more information, but you're you're pretty familiar also with the topic that you're you're guessing at Israel. Right. So Lewis and Clark, I think both of them were Servair.
So they would have had a lot of training as far as, you know, judging distance goes. They would have had some information to put together. So, Clark, coming up with, you know, with an estimate of how wide the continent is and just being off by 40 miles, like you said, that's remarkable. But if you had had one of us do it, it would have been a wild guess. Yeah. So it has to do with the training, the expertise, really, and then the amount of information you have.
That's that's what an estimate is. Yeah.
And you may not even know that you have information stored away in your brain that you're recalling when you're trying to hazard a guess on something. You might just be you might think it's a wild guess, but you're really kind of picking out something that happened in your past maybe. Right, or another way to to look at it is that is intuition, which is, from what I understand, intuition is kind of its own category. But if it's most closely related to any type of those three guesses we just mentioned, it would be an estimate.
And it comes from years and years and years of training or exposure to whatever you're guessing at to the point where your guesses don't even seem like guesses. It just seems like for knowledge of what you're about to do. Yeah, like I used to be really, really bad at guessing crowd sizes. But through our live shows. I've gotten pretty good at it, because when you go to these theaters, you know how many people are in there and then you stand in front of that many people.
And if you do that enough times, I can now say, like, you know, when people when I go to a show or something, I'll be like, how many people think this place holds? I used to say, like, I have no idea. I know. But now you say, you know, been around eight or nine hundred people. Yeah. And you're probably pretty close. Yeah. Within 40 miles of that. And that's just because of exposure and learning.
And that actually brings up a really good point that you can actually get better at guessing. And we'll get into that right after this break. How about that, Chuck?
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All right, so, Chuck, you said that that you got better at estimating crowd sizes by performing at our live shows, right? Correct. So you were terrible at it before? Very bad.
But just from from exposing yourself to it, going out on stage and exposing yourself to crowds that you could judge the size of. And everybody clapped.
So you and Guy remember that guy? Yeah. Nelson just pointed and laughed.
Nelson at Portland. You got better at it. And when it comes to especially but probably both, but especially intellectual guesses, intellectual buckett guesses, you can train yourself to get better at it. And part of that is making a guess, getting pretty much immediate feedback and learning from that.
Yeah, like you're wrong. This is what the answer is. It's like anything else. Exactly. Do that or not if you're going to get better at it. Yeah.
And there is a pretty interesting I guess it was interesting little kind of side track that the author of the guesses article Alyea Hoyt took and I have to say now is lawyer. It's not Aleesha. No, it's a la there's no saying Alysha for because not only is the C silent, it's not there.
Wow. It's it's invisible.
So Aleah, my hat's off to her because doing supplemental research for this, there are not a lot of people who are coming up with really substantial stuff about guesses. Yeah, it's like it's baren. It's probably the the least amount of research I've ever encountered in all of our almost thousand plus episodes.
Oh, wow. So the fact that she put this together, my hat's off to her. But a sidetracks she takes is to teach the reader how to get better at guessing a jar full of jelly beans. Yeah, boy, that was exciting.
I mean. Oh yeah.
Yeah, because I always I mean, my method was always to.
Pick out a smaller area like the bottom inch of the jar.
OK, count as many as I could, an estimate that and then multiply that out.
That's actually a great technique is not bad. Well, I don't know. I haven't guessed jellybeans in a jar since I was probably 12. Right. But that was always my method, which has a little there's a little bit of method to it, but it's definitely not as good as this one. OK, so so this one. It sounds a little more complex than than it actually is, but if you say if you look at a jar and it's filled with jelly beans, you can say that jar is the volume of that jars, say a court.
OK, but then you got to want that to begin with. Sure. Right. But you can learn, right? You can just look around like here's the point. If you want to get good at guessing jelly beans, it just takes a little bit of work. Yeah, most people would walk up, say a million jelly beans and they're off by like 900000. Like, well, I'm terrible at guessing jelly beans. I'm going to sleep for the rest of my life.
But if you want to get good at guessing at jelly beans, all you have to do is poke around, learn a few things, and then you can basically apply those to every situation. And one of the things you would need to learn is how to judge the volume of the container to start. Correct.
So that's one part, right? Yeah. Which, you know, most people would do that by comparing it to like a milk jug or a two liter bottle or something like that. Right.
But in this case, to get a really accurate estimate, you would want to know specifically say how many ounces a container held. Correct. And then another thing you would probably do if you started researching guessing jelly beans and jar on the Internet, you would you would run across some research that found that if you have a spherical objects in a jar, they typically take up about if you fill the thing up, they typically take up about 64 percent of the actual volume of the jar.
Yeah, and that's if they're just randomly dumped. Right. So if you come across a jar and you say and it's filled with like perfectly round bouncy balls, OK, perfectly round bouncy balls. Right. You can say, well, those are spherical and they're taking up about 64 percent of the jar. So all they have to do is figure out the the basically the size of each of the ball. Right. And then divide it by 64 percent of the volume.
Yeah. And then, bam, you just guessed how many are in there and you're probably pretty close to. Right. Sure.
So this all sounds mind numbing. I've got a little a little trickle of blood coming out of my ear right now.
But you can see the whole point is you can train yourself to make better guesses, to estimate better. That's the whole point.
Yeah. And if it's non-spiritual, by the way, like if it's peanuts or something like that or ice cubes, not disgusting.
Circus peanuts. I mean, the. That conjures up so many memories, do you like those? Well. I think I might have when I was a kid, but I haven't had one in 40 years, but I still remember the taste.
You me just had some. She says they still hold up. And I'm like, I didn't like them then. I'm not going to like them now.
Well, they hold up for you in a bad way, right? Right.
Yeah, exactly. So I know, I know I'm not supposed to yuck anyone's yum but yuck. So if it's circus peanuts, let's say that would be between 50 percent and 54 percent of the space, not 64. Yeah. So what does you mean by that? Did you ask her?
She says she just kind of knows. Oh, so she's a peacock. Exactly.
She she says once in a while, always around in a vat of liquid.
Wow. That would be c.. I would that would scare me if that would if that was my wife's answer. If she just like kind of walked by and said, I just know. Right. Yeah. I would be like, well, what else do you just know? Yeah, well, she's kind of unstoppable too.
You have no idea how many calves we've won at county fairs in the last year alone.
Our house is overrun with them. Um, all right. So that's just guessing volume of a thing.
And the thing that's its intellectual guessing. Yeah, right. But you can train yourself to guess. But what's really up for for questioning is whether you can train yourself to get better at the other bucket of guessing, emotional type of guessing right where you're walking around and you are interacting with other people and you're making judgments about how they're feeling. Right then. Yeah. What they're thinking right then what their motives are. You know how well they're actually listening to you, all of these things.
Right. It's part of our interaction with other people. And there's something that two researchers called X and Tookes, great combo that back in 1988 established this kind of field of inquiry in which they were trying to get to the bottom of what they called empathic accuracy, which is how accurately we can we can surmise what someone actually is feeling or thinking just from interacting with them. Some people are supposedly good at it. Some people are not. And from what I saw, there's a big kind of push and pull about whether it's worth practicing or whether you should just not do that at all for the sake of your own sanity.
Just say if you tell me that you're in a good mood, I'm going to take that at face value. And if you're actually not, then you're you're covering up your feelings for your own reason and that's on you. And that's that's fine. If you want to just keep them to yourself, that's fine. If you want to share them, I'm here, but I'm going to I'm going to take what you're saying on face value. So bully for you.
That to me is sanity is like going home.
How are you really feeling that you can in a lot of time, one can spend a lot of time doing that.
So. So can I share a little bit about myself here? Well, I know it's weird.
It feels gross. But for a very long time, Chuck, I thought that I was a born and bred empath that like, I could understand what anyone was thinking and feeling, maybe even better than they knew how they were thinking and feeling.
Yeah. And I finally.
Finally. Came to the hard truth that I was wrong almost all the time, right, and in figuring this out like this was really jarring and it took a little while for me to, like, really for this to sink in.
But once I figured out that I'm actually terrible at reading and gauging other people's thoughts and feelings, it was one of the most liberating things that's ever happened to me because I just stopped. Yeah, I stopped and I realized how much of my life I've been walking around wasting just thinking about, you know, what people really think or, you know, do people really like me? They probably don't. Or do they or or what did they mean by that look or whatever.
And just taking people in life on face value is so much. It's just occupy so much less of your mind at any given moment. It's just great. That's my prescription. Stop trying to figure out what other people are really thinking and feeling.
You should you should just ask me. A long time ago, I was like, you're terrible at that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I don't know if I were to listen, you know, it took it took a little while, but I had to walk through their own doors, you know what I'm saying? That is well put. And you're a stoic sage.
So cognitive distortion is a phrase you hear pop up a lot when it comes to assessing another person's emotions. And these are these inaccurate thoughts that you have in your brain. Sometimes they leave the negative thinking or encourage that. I think probably most times that's probably the case. And then polarize thinking is another bucket. I guess since we're bucketing everything today, which is, you know, everything is great or everything is terrible. And the example they give in this in this article is, you know, simply I mean, it's a little boy reading a girl's face that, you know, she doesn't like me, but that that's a kid in elementary school.
You can apply this to anyone walking into a room and basically reading either the room or reading a person and saying, like, you know, I don't like the way that that person just looked at me. That's bad. Right? And so I don't think they like me. And those are both of those things that work cognitive distortion and polarized thinking. Right.
Which I think is thinking is a type of cognitive distortion. I think that's the umbrella term for that kind of thing. Right.
Yeah, that makes sense. So, yeah, I think this is kind of where you get to why a lot of people are terrible at guessing or get their guessing wrong, especially when it comes to what other people are thinking and feeling, is that your guess is whether you realize it or not are actually colored and come through a lens of your past history, right? Yeah. So like, if you were raised in a house where you people, your family members are really critical of you and one another, if you see two people in a corner like kind of like having a quiet conversation, but laughing too.
Yeah. You're probably going to think they're laughing at you even though they may not even be paying the least bit of attention to you. Yeah, sure. But because of the history of how you grew up, that's what you're going to guess that. Right? Whereas if somebody was raised in a house where they were instilled with a lot of confidence and a great sense of humor. Right. That person might just think and they must be talking about something hilarious.
I wish I knew what the joke was or they might have so much confidence and sense of humor. They might even walk up and engage them and say, what are you guys laughing at? Right. And if go nothing, never mind, then you may be on to something. Right.
But there was this there's this bug person, man. I wish I could remember what the site was. I apologize site, but it was basically like stop trying to read other people's minds was the gist of it. Yeah. And they actually used that example and they went on to say, like, even if the person who thinks that they're laughing at them turns out to be right, that's not the worst thing that can happen to you. Yeah, it's fine.
Who cares? You know. Sure. Like, some people aren't going to like you. Some people will. It doesn't really matter. Like, if somebody doesn't like you, you've got to have a little more self-confidence and like that just completely derail your day.
Yeah. And you and you have to find it within yourself. Yeah. For sure.
And some people get that through years of therapy. Some people are born with it. Some people never achieve it.
I think it's you know, even if you are born with I think you can lose it from time to time. Yeah. If you're not born with it, you can gain it from time to time. But it's not something I think you have every moment of every day necessarily. Yeah. Boy, people with just too much confidence are so annoying.
They really are, because everyone wants that. You know, I think that's why it's annoying. Sure. It's like, man, I wish I could be that confident about everything.
I hate that guy. And then you end up in a corner talking to somebody else about how much you hate that person with so much confidence totally lost on the other person.
So I have another theory that's not scientific at all. It's just my personal theory that when it comes to guessing things, your own not well, your past experiences certainly influence it, but your. Own how you are also influences like, oh, yeah, like I think a liar is more apt to think people are lying to them.
Precisely, yeah. No, that's absolutely I agree. I was going to say that's absolutely true. But I agree with you. Yeah. Because who knows. It's just a theory. All right.
But I mean, it's based it's based on some pretty ancient folk wisdom like that whole thing about how, you know, when you're pointing a finger at somebody, three finger pointing at you or judge, not lest you be judged like when you think about people in that way, you think that they're doing the same thing to you even when they're not. It's your own hilarious little personal hell. Yeah.
And it's not always that, like, you know, I think that dude's ripping me off. Maybe you've been ripped off before and that's where that's coming from. Or maybe you've ripped someone off before. But I bet one of the two what's happened?
I think the more what you're what you're talking about are like core core character traits, though, like judge being judgmental or being a liar or, you know, being a B.S. or something like that. Like when you do notice that, though, what's great is there's so much room for growth. Oh, yeah. When you when you realize that that like, wait a minute, I think everybody's judging me because I'm so judgmental. I need to work on being judgmental.
What's what's almost magical is that when you when you realize that and you work on not being judgmental, you stop thinking that other people are judging you and your life is just freer.
Well, there are these psychologists and all over this article that Aleah just rocked my world with that I wrote, and one of them was talking about these interpretations without evidence and her advice, which is very simple.
And it seems like a no brainer, though, as to like maybe just focus on things, you know, to be true and not inventing and surmising like, well, what if what if they're talking about this and, you know, you're just kind of inventing all that. Like, if you concentrate on what you know to be true, then life gets a lot simpler. Right.
But that same shrink also pointed out that one of the big problems with guessing and especially guessing incorrectly is that we tend to forget that we're guessing at stuff. Yeah, we take our own guesses as as fact. Right. And since they can be so horribly wrong, if you if you're guessing that other people are judging you even when they're not, you're going to basically walk around feeling judged all the time because you think that that's absolutely accurate when it's when it's not necessarily fascinating.
All right. We'll take a break. I was just going to say the same thing. All right.
Well, we'll take a break and we are going to come back, talk a little bit about guessing on tests, how to win at rock, paper, scissors and apes and guessing.
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All right, so we talked in esoteric terms about guessing so far, but I think what everyone really wants to know is how do I pass a multiple choice test? All right. Because that's another kind of guessing. It's, you know, guessing runs the gamut from emotional to stuff like this.
There have been different theories over the years, like, well, first of all, back in the day and I guess until semi recently for like the SAT and ACT and other standardized tests, you would be penalized for an incorrect guess.
I don't remember that, do you? Yeah, if you get something wrong, it's like a quarter point deduction, I think was the deal. Sounds familiar. I think I may have blocked it out, but they don't do that anymore.
So now they say, guess, guess, guess if you don't know the answer. And you know, that has run the gamut from always see, because it's in the middle to this one person. I don't necessarily agree with this one, but they say just choose the same letter every time, like always Gatsby. And you're going to be right one out of every five times if it's ABCDE easy. Right.
Which makes sense though. I mean, because if you jump around, you lessen your chances every time, whereas if you use the same one you have the same chances of getting it right every time.
Yeah, but this guy wrote a he actually did a little studying Paula Poundstone.
That wasn't his name, was it? It was William Poundstone, her her brother. Yeah, and he did actual research on he studied tests and did a statistical analysis of 100 different tests ranging from middle school, high school, college, professional exams, driver's test firefighters, radio operators. He studied all kinds of tests. All right. And he has for what he calls for ways to outsmart multiple choice tests.
And a couple of these make a lot of sense to me. Yeah, the first one, he said, is to ignore conventional wisdom because you kind of always have heard teachers say, like. Avoid answers that say never, always or none, so like all of the above or none of the above, don't choose those. And he found the opposite to be true.
Yeah, he found that none of the above are all of the above are correct, 52 percent of the time. Yeah, so that's offered up as an option and you have first of all, we should couch this with always try and, you know, deduce the answer with intelligence.
Well, yeah, Poundstone says there's nothing none of this is meant to replace knowledge of your subject. You get knowledge of your subject by studying ahead of time. But he's saying if you're facing a question on a multiple choice test and you have no idea what the answer is, there's some techniques you can choose to to to increase the likelihood that your guess will be right. Right.
So all of the above or none of the above, if you really have no idea about that, I would I would say pick that one.
It's weird, though, because later on he says he says so first he says ignore conventional wisdom. But then later on, the one piece of conventional wisdom I've always heard, he says, is actually true, that is that you want to choose the longest answer on any multiple choice test, right? Yeah, because if if you are saying something is true, most of the time you have to add qualifying language. Right. To make it absolutely true because you don't want somebody making me like, well, that's actually not quite true.
So when you start adding qualifying language into an answer, it gets longer than the other ones. And the test rate is probably not going to go to the trouble of making the wrong answers similarly long. Right. So the longest answer is very frequently that the correct answer?
Yeah, I thought that was a really good piece of advice. That's the one I always heard. That's really the only one I've ever known. I really.
Did you remember Scantron sheets? Oh, yeah.
Did you ever were you ever so recklessly wild that you, like, made a Christmas tree out of a test?
Did you ever have the gall to do that? Oh, I never did bad because there are kids that listen to this. But I had to take a test one time that was not for school, but it was something I didn't want to do. I won't get into the details, but I made a big snake. Well, and it was bad, and I look back and I'm ashamed of it, I made a mockery of their process and I wasn't that kind of kid.
I don't know what happened. I was I know a good kid and a good student. I'm surprised to hear this. I know. But it's it's I feel so bad. It still really stands out in my mind as what a jerk move that was on my part.
I'm not only surprised, though, Chuck, I'm a little delighted.
Good about it myself. Yeah. All right. So one of the other pieces of advice from Dr. Poundstone. Doctor, I just don't think there is no Dr.. He did write a book, though, it's called Rock Breaks Scissors. Colin, why does everything have to have a colon now? It makes it smarter.
Rock breaks scissors colon, a practical guide to outgassing and outwitting almost everybody. One of his other ones is to look at the surrounding answers because he's found the correct answer. Choices are rarely repeated consecutively, so you rarely get to B's in a row as the answer. So if you definitely know the answer in front of it and the answer behind it, then it's probably not one of those two. So if you've just whittled down your options. Yep, not bad advice, no, not not bad at all.
What else? And the last one is gonna eliminate the outliers. If there's anything that that seems like it doesn't really fit with the rest of the stuff, you can automatically get rid of that. And then conversely, if there's anything if there are two answers that seem extremely close, they probably can be gotten rid of as well because it's the same thing, basically. So if you have, say, five five potential answers and one of them doesn't fit with the other four, get rid of that.
Two of them are similar. Get rid of those two. You're down to two. You've got a 50/50 chance of getting it right.
Yeah, I thought the example they used in here was pretty fascinating because they didn't even use the question or give the question on the SAT practice test. They just gave the answer for ABCDE. Easy, haphazard is to radical.
Inherent is the controversial improvisors. The startling, methodical is the revolutionary. Derivative is to gradual. And if you just look at the right hand side, you have radical, controversial, startling, revolutionary and gradual and obviously gradual stands out is just being different than those other words. Right?
Radical, controversial, startling, revolutionary, gradual doesn't make sense. Right.
So that makes it I mean, that's really a good piece of advice. And then if you look on the left hand side for and see haphazard and improvised are really close. So he says you should eliminate those two as well. Yeah, I wish I would have had this kind of advice for the SAT.
Well, I'll tell you what, that's an actual SAT set of answers. You ever run into haphazard, radical, inherent, controversial, improvised, startling, methodical, revolutionary and derivative, gradual. You want to go with the methodical revolutionary and we just get you into college. Yeah. You ever wanted to take the SAT again, like now? No, no, that's funny. I really don't I've never wanted to I was I've been glad since the moment I finished that test that I was done.
I only took it twice. I took it once. And I was like, good enough. Yeah, I took it twice.
I did not score very well the first time and I scored pretty well the second time. Oh, good. And I was like, I don't want to know which one is the real me. I said, so I'm done.
Yeah, I scored blandly the first time and I was like, that's fine, that's fine, that's fine.
I'll get by on my eye in real life skills.
Hey, look at you. You've done great. I've done OK. Um, so you want to talk about rock, paper, scissors a little bit? Yeah.
I thought this was awesome. Our friends over at Motherboard and we can say that because we used to have a short lived column on motherboard.
Yeah. From Vice. Yeah. They have a German outfit called Appropriately Motherboard Germany and they ran a post called When It Rock, Paper, Scissors every time with math Colen. What's with the Colon's.
And they basically got into how using game theory you can win a rock, paper scissors basically all the time.
Yeah they did or they didn't do the research, but they got together with some researchers at the University of Hengshui in China and they got three hundred and sixty students to pair up and play three hundred rounds each of rock, paper, scissors, and then they track for that.
Please stop. And they said, no, this is communist China. Do it again. Again.
Uh, so they they charted all those out and then summarized it with some strategies. I don't know if this would you would win every time.
No. I mean, there's always like the what they call in rock, paper, scissors, the October surprise where somebody just pulled something out of nowhere.
So I mean.
And dynamite, right? Yeah. Yeah. Those are offshoots. Remember kids that would do those. Oh, really? Oh, yeah, some interesting people, yeah, they would add other other weapons, basically.
Well, the this the motherboard article talks about there's this other guy who came up with a whole different variation of it. That's like 25 or 26 different different possible.
But I would never remember all of them. No. How could you. But at least one guy does.
No one can remember twenty five things. Yeah, right.
But so, so OK. There's a few things in this. This falls in line with learning how to get better at guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar. Yeah. If you arm yourself with a little bit of foreknowledge you can better guess at what your opponent's going to come at you with any game of rock, paper, scissors. Starting with that, men tend to open a game with rock.
Of course they do. Yeah, it's such a man thing, rock smash, you know.
Right. So if you're if your opponent is a man and there's a pretty good chance they're going to come out with Rock the first time go paper.
Yeah. Although they do say statistically the opening scissors is the one that will win you the most games. But I guess that's if you're not playing a man. I guess they kind of counteract themselves or contradict themselves.
Statistically, more women play rock, paper, scissors. I guess that Drew, here's one I thought. I don't think so. Yeah. Here's one. I've been making a lot of this stuff up in this episode. Here's here's one that I thought was kind of funny. Basically, this is like the Babe Ruth move.
Say what you're going to pick. Yeah. Before the game. Like, I'm going to pick scissors next. And the person's like they're not going to pick scissors, but you just psyched them out. And when you throw scissors, baby, they're going to be blown away because they threw paper and they thought you were going to throw a rock.
Yeah, it's like The Princess Bride. And what part was that with the man sitting at the place talking about the poisoned drink? Oh yeah.
Yeah, I remember like you trying to get the other guy to drink the poisoned drink. I wish I'd never drink. Yeah, he was awesome.
What is another strategy to counter attack? So if you played scissors and your opponent plays rock on the first move and they win, obviously the chance that they they have confidence now in that move. So you might be able to guess that they will play rock again because the chances are pretty high that they will do so. Then you anticipate that play paper. So basically it says play the option that wasn't played in the previous round.
Right. And you can also mirror your opponent. Right. So if you just want to around play what your opponent just played because they probably are thinking that you're going to play with the same gesture that you won with the second and go really throws them off. So the idea is they're probably going to play the same thing that they just won with. And if you won, don't do that. Right.
And that'll frustrate them, too.
That's the Rock, Paper Scissors version of why you hitting yourself right into that thing when you're you both throw rocks and you throw rock again, you both throw a rock and you keep that's when the psychological warfare starts, like who's going to break first and go with paper? And then ideally you go with scissors and you have thus outsmarted your opponent. Right. So interesting. So we were talking about you mentioned that we were going to talk about apes, right?
Yeah, I didn't fully understand this, so maybe you can help me. I don't know that that science fully understands it. OK, but basically so so let me give you an example here, OK? We were talking about how the brain they're trying to figure out what regions of the brain are activated to form like this cascade of thought that results in a guess. Right. One of the things I ran across was.
One theory of how we guess what other people are going to do is through mirror neurons, where if we see somebody doing something, our mirror neurons are activated and it puts us in a mind of how we feel when we're doing something. And we use that past experience and that current sensation of like the example I ran across is somebody grabbing an apple. Yeah. To guess what the person's going to do next. Right. So you would say, well, I know most times when I grab an apple, I take a bite out of it because I'm usually hungry.
When I grab an apple, that's after I rub it on my shirt to give it a nice shine. Right.
Well, that's that's just showboating if you're going to if you guess the person's going to rub it on their shirt first before taking a bite that's showing off. But that's so your mirror neurons are the part of your brain that's triggered that that sets that off. Right. That gives you that the basis, the foundation for making a guess of what the person's going to do next.
And then it gets run through again, that lens of your past experience, your history, everything from how you were raised to what you do with apples, to what you've seen other people do with apples. And you come up with a short list of possibilities of what the person's going to do with that apple. And it includes rubbing on their shirt, taking a bite, putting it away in a cupboard, throwing it at a wall, and then you're going to pare down based on what you know about that person.
Like, is that person neat freak? If so, they're probably going to put their apple away in a cupboard. Which who does that? Yeah, except for neat freaks. And you may be right at your guess, right?
Well, they're definitely not wall throwers at least. Right. Right. Whittle down your guesses. Yeah.
So if that's that's how you that's how apparently that's one theory for how we make guesses, starting from brain based going through personal history and then making the guess. And what some research found was that the ultimately what we're doing here is called theory of mind. Where we are have a capability of bestowing the idea that other people have thoughts and feelings on other people. Right.
That is so common to us that we take it for granted that we can attribute mental states to other people. But that's that's a pretty significant thing. And for a very long time, researchers thought that just humans were capable of of that. But they found out that no, actually, some apes at the very least, just apes can do the same thing. They can attribute mental states like thoughts and feelings and emotions to other apes. And that's that's shows like a higher form of reasoning.
That was basically the gist of it.
OK, that makes sense. And they found that true in chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans.
That's pretty neat.
It is one of the. So so Sacha Baron Cohen, his cousin, Simon Baron Cohen, is one of the leaders. And in theory of mine. Oh, really?
Yeah. We've talked about him before, remember. Yeah. But one of the one of the big areas that it like influences is autism, that that people with autism tend to have more difficulty attributing mental states in theory of mind to other people than people who don't have autism. Right. Right.
And but one of the one of the ways that they find this out, and I think one of the ways that they detect autism in young kids is by attributing false beliefs to other people. This is like an early part of human development and apparently apes are good at it to where you are an observer. Right. And you're watching a scene and there's a little boy named Tommy. And Tommy comes in the room and he grabs the Three Musketeers off of the kitchen counter and he walks over to a chest of drawers and he puts it in one of the drawers and walks out of the room.
Well, Sally comes in and the narrator says Sally is really hungry for a Three Musketeers. She knows it was last on the table. Where's she going to look for the Three Musketeers and people with with theory of mind who are able to attribute false beliefs to other people will say, well, Sally's going to go look on the table even though it's not there any longer, because Tommy put it in the drawer. Right.
You can know that Sally can believe something that's no longer correct. If you have trouble with theory of mind and specifically if you're testing for autism, that child, the child with autism, might say, well, Sally is going to go look in the drawer because that's where it is. They have trouble attributing false beliefs to people. What's true is true. And everybody would know that. Right. And that's one way that they test for autism and it has to do with theory of mind.
Interesting, isn't it? Yeah. And it all has to do with guessing. It all has to do with guessing. Yeah. You got anything else? Well, just that Tommy should not be so. Touchy. Well, yeah, and like Cher, the Three Musketeers. Yeah, there's you know, I go around. Do you know why Three Musketeers are called that? I have no idea. My friend.
It used to be a Neopolitan, Candy, that came in three different pieces, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. And they just went with chocolate after a while and kept the name because.
Why not? Yeah, interesting. Well, that's it, about three musketeers for today, and hey, Chuck, before we go to listener mail, I want to give a huge congratulations from us to Stephen and Jane, our buddies, the bars and the birth of their firstborn child. Yeah, how about that? Congratulations, you guys. Good looking baby, too.
Yeah, because they're not all good looking. No, no, it's true.
Especially like right after birth. And because they're New Yorkers, they walked home from the hospital crying. Like, how great is that?
I'm surprised they didn't take the subway. But you have to do it is they are pretty in New York. It's awesome. Yes. Congratulations. It's one graduation's pass. OK, well, since we said congratulations, Barres, it's time for listener mail.
Yeah, this is a little long, but it's about registering to vote in Texas. You got an email from Monica and her story goes as such. 2013, a move from Alabama to Texas at a really horrific time trying to register to vote for. I went to the county clerk's office. I looked online to check what I needed, downloaded the application. So I kind of filled out in advance. I took my Alabama driver's license. I lease my birth certificate, and because I'm divorced, my divorce decree stipulating my legal name change.
You probably think that would be all she needed, right? Right. No, no. Once I got there, I was told that the lease was not sufficient proof residency and that I would need to bring two pieces of official mail like utility bill tax bill. So I leave after spending the better part of a day, waiting in line, waiting for my power and gas bill to come. In order to add the other documents a couple of weeks later, with all of the documents in hand, I took another day off work went back to try again.
This time the clerk looks over the divorce decree and notices my name change wasn't to go back to my maiden name. I mean, this was a name change that was ordered by a court in Alabama and explicitly spelled out in a notarized document that the clerk was disputing its validity. When I asked what the problem was, he said, well, that's in Alabama, if you want to that to be your official name in Texas, you have to go through the courts, have a draw at noon in the center of town with the judge, a shoot out.
What's that called?
A shoot out, a quickdraw. Now, he said you'll have to go through the courts and have it declared here in Texas after literally blinking at him silently with my mouth agape. For a moment, I said, you're telling me that the divorce in Alabama is invalid because it was dedicated in Alabama, that I am going to have to go through the whole process of getting a divorce again for it to be official in Texas, is that correct? His reply was, well, when you put it that way, it sounds silly, but yes.
So I demanded to speak with a supervisor. The clerk got the supervisor who looked over everything and asked why I didn't just go back to my maiden name, which I replied, It doesn't matter what I change my name to. You have the official document signed by a judge and notarized. And this should be all you need because of the Constitution of the United States, that all judicial rulings and contracts that are valid one state are valid in every state.
At that point, the clerk walked off, the supervisor said, OK, I gave my stuff to another clerk, simply smiled, entered my application and took my check and pointed me toward the desk where I could get my picture taken. And then she closes by saying, imagine how this would have gone. I would have been an hourly worker, had less of an understanding boss and not known about the ins and outs of the Constitution or didn't have access to all these documents.
Chances are I would have been disenfranchised driving around with an expired license. These laws are absolutely created to suppress voter registration and participation, and they work spectacularly well. Man, that is Monica's story.
Thanks, Monica, and welcome to Texas two, by the way. Yeah.
If you want to get in touch with us and tell us a real life adventure that has something to do with one of our episodes, we want to hear about it. You can tweet to us. I'm at Josh Clark. And that's why as a podcast on Twitter, you can hang out with Chuck at Charles, Doublecheck Brian on Facebook or at Facebook, dot com slash stuff. You should know you can send us an email, the STUFF podcast at HowStuffWorks dot com.
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