Captain, That Is Illogical
Here’s an interesting mind experiment. Ready? Here is the situation; you have four cards, with the following faces showing. D, 7, 3, F. You are told that each card has a number on one side, and a letter on the other. Now you are given a statement:
On every card that shows a “D” on one side, there is a “3” on the other side.
Here is the challenge: How many cards do you need to turn over, and which cards, to conclusively prove or disprove the following statement, and which cards do you turn over?
While you may find this easy (I didn’t I had to cheat and read the logic behind the explanation to get it,) most people don’t. In face, when this study was first concocted by a couple of professors at Stanford (where you’d think there’s be some smart people) only about one out of four got the answer right.
Now here’s the same question, presented another way:
You are a bouncer at a bar. The rules are that you can’t drink unless you are twenty-one. Now the cards are “drinking coke, drinking beer, 16 years old, 25 years old.” Or if you prefer, there are four people sitting at the bar. One is drinking beer (you don’t know how old they are) one is drinking coke (you don’t know how old they are) one is 25 (you don’t know what they are drinking) and one is sixteen (you don’t know what they are drinking).
From a logical standpoint, the problem is identical, yet when presented the second way, most people quickly realize that in order to figure out if anybody is breaking any laws, all you do is card the person drinking beer, and quickly check what the sixteen year old is drinking. In effect, turning over two cards to see what is on the other side.
As in the case above, you turn over the “D” to verify it if has a three on the other side, and you turn over the “7” to make sure it doesn’t have a “D” on the other side. If the D has a 3, and the 7 doesn’t have a D, then the statement is correct. If the D doesn’t have a three, and the 7 has a D, then the statement is incorrect.
The underlying problem is why, when the logic is identical, do so many people have a hard time (as I did) with the first question, and a much easier time (as I did) with the second question?
One answer could be that we aren’t as logically thinking as we’d like to believe. It may be that our brains aren’t designed to think in terms of Vulcan logic like Mr. Spock, but to think only in terms of social interactions, specifically to uncover social “cheats,” those that would break unwritten social contracts.
The thinking behind this idea goes like this. Humans lived in small groups for a couple hundred thousand years. That’s when we developed our “humanness” so to speak. One thing that evolutionary biologists think is one of the major driving forces behind the massive growth of the human brain during our history was social pressure from within the group. Our brains, our language, our thinking was all developed to outsmart each other within that small group of wandering nomads all those years ago.
Numerous studies of chimps and various apes have shown this to be a major portion for the need for their large brains as well. Most of them have plenty of food where they live, don’t need to organize sophisticated hunting parties, or come with complex methods of evading predators. Most of their thinking power, many believe, is so they can outsmart each other and rise as high in the social order as possible.
When humans developed language many, many years ago, we just took it a couple notches higher (to say the least) and developed all kinds of conscious and unconscious social skills. We learned to read facial expressions and body language, learned how to tell when somebody is cheating or lying, and be able to cheat and lie ourselves.
Many species have a specific feature, which is there solely for sexual competition within the species. The most often given example is the peacock’s tail. When peahens get together to choose their mate, they choose the male with the most flamboyant tail. Interestingly, the more flamboyant the tail, the dangerous it is for the peacock, as he is a much easier prey for predators, as well as having to lug that huge thing around should he have to run away.
In other species, they have other aspects. Bull seals have their size and strength, gorilla’s have their silver stripe of hair on their back, different birds have various ways to strut their stuff, from colored feathers to singing ability.
In humans, it is our brains, more specifically our verbal and social skills that became the driving force of sexual selection. Those that were the most eloquent, and the most persuasive, were the most prolific, and left the most offspring. Those offspring, having inherited slightly higher skills for eloquence and social prowess, in turn competed with each other. Continue that process for a few hundred thousand years, and you’ve got these big-brained humans walking around.
Something to think about yet next time you’re at a bar or club or other social gathering, and watching the vast throng trying to talk their genes into eternity.
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