2002-10-15 – A brain trick

I got this forwarded to me on the email. You may have seen it before. My comments are, obviously, at the bottom.
> Here’s a brain teaser to c if you’re all awake!
> Let me know if anyone manages it 1st time!
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> Count the \”F’s\” in the following text:
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> FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE-
> SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIF-
> IC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE
> EXPERIENCE OF YEARS
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> Managed it ? Scroll down only after you have counted them, okay?
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> How many ? 3?
> Wrong, there are 6 !!–no joke.
> Read it again.
> The reasoning behind is further down.
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> The brain cannot process \”OF\”.
> Incredible or what ?
> Anyone who counts all 6 \”F’s\” on the first go is a genius.
> Three is normal, four is quite rare. Send this to your friends
> — it drives them crazy!

Ok, the explaination in the text here is obviously wrong. You and I can both handle \”Of\” otherwise many sentences would make no sense. So, why do most people miss the \”f\”‘s?

The reason is two-fold.
When you are asked to look for an \”f\”, you are looking for an \”eff\” rather than the \”v\” sound \”of\” gives. Since this was presented as a challenge, most people would read it fairly slowly, \”out loud\” in their heads, rather than skimming it. This makes the reader more likely to get it wrong. Because we are used to seeing \”of\” very often, we tend to skim that word, along with other so-called \”stop words\” such as \”and\”, \”the\”, \”yes\” and \”no\”. This is because we already know these words, and the mental processing overheads are far, far lower than on the harder, context words. Because you \”know\” \”of\” has no \”f\”, due to it’s vee sound, you’re prone to automatically skip it.

This isn’t the end of the story, however. Even if you have done this quiz before, people will still often come up with 5, not 6, due to getting the first two \”f\”, and the three \”of\”‘s, and yet missing the \”third\” f at the end of the second line. This is due to having read the text before, and now, eager to get to the next \”of\”, due to knowing the trick, people are prone to skip the less important part of the word SCIENTIF-, as they already know it says scientific. But, because they leap ahead, their eyes never actually read that \”f\”!

Don’t worry about being caught out, however, as you will know for next time. The very reasons why you get caught out are the reasons we can read so fast, and take in so much data so quickly.. It is because we tend to skip what we know, and we automatically reduce the data coming in, to avoid getting bogged down.

Whoever wrote this originally knew this, and used your own mind against you.. The so-and-so!

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