Today’s entry in our Advent Calendar of experiments from BrainJuicer.
The Experiment: “A bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”
If you’ve read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast And Slow you’ll be familiar with this problem – the answer’s 5 cents. If you’ve seen a BrainJuicer presentation in the last couple of years you might very well also be familiar with it – it’s a way of demonstrating how our fast “system 1” thinking processes reach for a convincing answer (10 cents) even if in this case it’s wrong.
“Say buddy, can you spare a part of your brain’s cognitive processing capacity?”
Bat and ball has now been largely retired from our presentations, but it lives on in this experiment – we’ve been bolting it (and a couple of other logical reasoning questions) onto some of our brand trackers for several months now. What we want to find out isn’t just how many people get it wrong but who gets it right – are there demographic splits which might be useful in calibrating research results?
The Results: The level of error in bat and ball is indeed very high – fewer than 1 in 5 respondents get it right. It’s also fairly evenly distributed – if you’re an older male working in IT then you seem to stand the best chance of getting it right, and in general age is a fair predictor of ability in the question. But the differences are small – there don’t seem to be a particular segment of people whose “system 2” cognitive abilities are so developed as to make a different research approach worthwhile.
Interestingly, we also asked about people’s confidence they were right. People who were right generally knew it, but among those who got it wrong confidence was very widely spread. Being sure you’re right isn’t much of a predictor of being right!
To read more on the implications of System 1 and System 2 thinking in research, check out “Research In A World Without Questions“, which won the Best Paper Award at ESOMAR Congress 2012.