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July 4, 2020 61 min
Guessing is a weird thing. For millennia, it could have meant the difference between life and death. Now it's not as vital, but we still do it every day, whether behind the wheel of a car, or judging what another person might be feeling. In this classic episode, learn everything we know about the brain and how it manages this odd, very human act. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Episode Transcription

The text below is machine transcribed.

Hi everyone at Yorpal Joshan for this week's SYS case Elex 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 hope you enjoy welcome to Stuff You Should Know a production of FI heart radios. How stuff works?

Hello, ind, welcome to Podcast, I'm Josh Clark, there's Charles W Chuck Right Terris over there in the corner.

EVERYBODY PUTS DARY in a corner, but you shouldn't - and this is Tufe Shou, no she's, the opposite of Baty Jerry's, back she's back from the mall yeah s Ho, 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, okay, 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 Ern you an more? I don't it's this weird in between I'm drawn to the smell, but I'm also full so inm kind of like Bo yeah.

Oh Man, what a life I know eating who needs it right me.

I do too. I love eating, 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 me and I went to New York recently and we saw this show yeah. It's called in and of itself, so one man stage magic. I guess you could call it that illusionist show by a guy named Dereck del Guadio G. Tell you says 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 a kind of his life story. It told like, through these different, these different acts and like just the 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 t e 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 chark. It's just a really neat show it's really original and different yeah, 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 don't want to give any bit of it away like for anybody's going to go, see it.

Everyone should go into at 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's doing or not know he's not doing like cold readings or something like that, like John Edwards, no n, no, nothing like that! But powers of suggestion in that. If you you can lead someone to think of a certain thing that they teen guess that Yo, 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 W, 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 yeah. They like our brain, is basically set up to guests, 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 yeah 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 youl remember, these can be our best episodets like unless the ones where there's just like a clear cut, completely understandable, neat explanation, s 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 this could be it.

Those are usually pretty good to so this could 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 house to works article - and they started talking about thein days of your with starting with tooktook, and you know basically up until the point where we could, like you know, measure things or prove things like. There was a lot of I an there's. Still a lot of guessing going on, but like guessing was a daily survival tactic.

Right like that's how that's how we Learne, 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 Louis and Clark? I remember Clark estimated, and you know, there's guesses and we'll get INA different types, but an estimation is a kind of a guess, even if it's informed in right well, reasoned in Clark's case. Of course he estimated, I think, Hewas only off about forty 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 as off. by He's off by forty I mean that's how remarkable yeah it is, but it wasn't a wild guess.

It was Clark being a very smart dude who probably took copious nodes. Not Probably he definitely took copious notes right, but I don't know I just never really thought about guessing back in those days. Could you know you? L, you culd end up.

A bad guess means the ind of view.

Yes, but if your friends were standing around watching you guess that that Lizard over there wasn't poisoning right and just go ahead and eat it raw, and then you keel over and die.

They learned from your bad guess: it's called taking one for the team, it very much so yeah hats thats before the universal edibility test man you are just have you been going through the archives or something?


I wrote that article back then so Ko God to hat one stuck with me, because you know I mean we're.

I thought you were too I'm cursed with that new information in old information, Thouh Shir, getting squeezed out yeah H, so she'll get into this.

I guess so!

I'M NOT! I don't mean to do this, I'm sorry what Saing, I guess, yeah it's pretty commonplace, but it does kind of under underscore just how much we do guess in our lives. You know yeah, here's all right, let's go head and start it with a brain then, because, while you're correct and saying that they don't know the the pathway is 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 you're, you know recall, there's all different parts of the brain, they're lighting up whenever you're guessing something yeah they they think that it's a global, a global phenomenon right, like it rain, brainaly global. Yes, exactly right, so there's like some region of your brain that specializes in the particular task at hand the the thing you're guessing about whether it say like volume or, like you, said, someone's age, that region of the brain that that has to do with sae numbers would light up. I think it's the paridal anterior gyrus, or something like that that lights up when you're, trying to guess someone's age based on how they look, but then aps that one, I think right using the wonder machine right, but that's just one functional part of the whole process that the brains going through. They know that it's there's a number of different regions that are operating at at any given point in time when you're making a guess, but they still can't say well, if somebody's guessing this, 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 ufrontolobe and ocipita lobe are at work.

nuwmiracal quantities like how many jelly beans are in that jar. That's kind of the common thing they mentioned that, like that still happens, is that sor thing you know who is a Jilly bean jar guessing champion of my wife? Really is yes, longstandingher special reasoning is, is outstanding. Well, spacial reasoning and numerical quantities are a big part of trying to guess the quantity of something in a 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 youme would beat me every time. My special reasoning is horrific, right yeah, but I'm really good at recognizing faces, so I'm probably atter at guessing the someone's age based on their face or possibly how they're feeling, based on their fficial expression than she might be, 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 hat, that's a whole different thing than guessing jelly beans in Ajar, which is different than guessing someone's age. It's like all lumped into guessing. It's really more varied than I ever considered right.

So with with well, let's talk about the different different types of gueses. 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 guests, based on, say their facial expression? That's that's emotional, O or intellectual yeah. That's Wy, intellectual or emotional bucket 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 get yeah. I er Sometig, like that you're saying here. Listen to me, I can speak, has noy my basis in fact, or reality or anything like that.

Then you have your educated guests, 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 o called swag which stands for stuff. We all get no scientific, wild ass, guessing, Oh okay, which is like a guest of it, 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 I've got little information, I'm not just wild guessing here th. This is a ballpark educated. Guess Right, but it's not bad still less than an estimate.

That's whe! We have a lot more information, yeah, not just a lot more information but youyou're pretty familiar. Also with the topic that you're you're guessing at Israell right so Lewis and Clark. I think both of them were surveyor, 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 why the continent is and just being off by forty miles, like you said, that's remarkable, but if you hald had one of us do it, it would have been a while 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 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 yeah, 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 fore 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'll go to a show or something will be like how many people you think this place holds, I used to Pi, let's Sa like. I have no idea, I know, but now e say you know better around eight or nine hundred people, yeah and you're - probably pretty close yeah within forty miles I'll bet, and that's just because of exposure and learning right, 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, RIGT ALL RIGHT SO CHUCK! You said that that you got better at estimating crowd sizes by Jus. 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 Sep one guy. Remember that Guy Yeah Nelson disappointed and laughed Nelson of Portland.

You got better at it and when it comes to, especially, but probably both, but especially intellectual guesses, intellectual bucket 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 you do that enough, you're going to get better at it yeah and there as this pretty interesting.

I guess it was interesting.

Little kind of side track that the author of the Guessis Article Alea Hoi, took Eli and Ilea have to say no is Ilia, it's not Alisha! No, it's Alia! There's Ano', saying Alica for noters. Not only is the SE silent, it's not there. Wow, t's isinvisible, so Elia Ho 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 barren. It's probably t e 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 hats off to her but a side track. She takes his to teach the reader how to get better at guessing a jar full of jelly beans, yeah boy. That was exciting.

I mean that Oh yeah yeah, because always I mean my method was always to pick out a smaller area like the bottom inch of the jar. Okay count as many as I could and estimate that, and then multiply that out.

That's actually a great technique, causis a Wad! Well I don't know I haven't guessed jelly beans in a jar since I was probably twelve 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 is this one.

Okay. 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 jar is say a court okay.

But then you got ont 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 guessing jelly beans, it just takes a little bit of work. Yeah most people would walk up, say a million jelly beans in they're off by, like nine hundred thousand. I like well I'm terrible at guessing jelly beans, a'm going to sleep for the rest of my Lifehuh, 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 the hat that by comparing it to like a milk, jug or a two leader 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 yo would run across some research that found that if you have spherical objects in a jar they typically take up about.

If you fill the thing up, they AK typically take up about sixty four percent of the actual volume of the jar yeah and that's if it's they're just randomly dumped right. So if you come across a jar - and you say - and it's filled with like perfectly round anceyballs - okay perfectly around bouncy balls right, you can say well, those are spherical and they're taking up about sixty four percent of the jar. So all I have to do is figure out the the basically the size of each of the ball right and then divide it by sixty four 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 Min numbing. I've got a little a little trickle blood coming out of my ear right now, but you can 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 a nonevericle by the way like if it's peanuts or something like that or ice cubes, not disgusting, Circus, peanuts, man B 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 onein forty years, but I still remember the taste you me just had somen. She says they still hold up and I'm like I didn't like them, then I'm not going to like them. Now they hold up for you in a bad way right right, yeah! Exactly so. I know I know I'm not supposed t o Yuck anyone's yon but youck.

So if it's circus peanuts, let's say that would be between fifty percent and fifty four percent of the space, not sixty four yeah.

So what is you me smythed? Did you ask her?

She says she just kind of knows so: She's a precog exactly she shaves her ed once a while and lays around in a vad of liquid wow. That would be see. 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 Wel, she's kind of unstoppable to you have no idea how many cavs we've won at county Fars in the list. Year alone, our house is overrun with them all right. So that's just guessing volume of a thing and the thing that's I it's intellectual guessing yeah right, but you can train yourself to guess better. 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 F, these things right.

It's part of our interaction with other people and there's something that two researchers called ix and took great Cambo Ha back. One thousand nine hundred and eighty eight 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 pushing pull about, whether it's worth practicing or whether you should just not do that at all. For the sake of your own sanity, rigust 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'r you're, covering up your feelings for your own reason. 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 he's like going hmm?

How are you really feeling yeah? That's Youcan 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 feel gross, but for a very long time chuck I thought that I was a born and bred ampath that, like I, could understand what anyone was thinking and feeling, maybe then 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 engaging 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 it occupies. So much less of your mind on 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 have d. You should have just asked me a long time ago, O old you, I was like you're terrible at that Godyeah yeah yeah.

I don't know if I would have listened you know it took it took a little while, but I ha to walk through their own doors. You know what I'm saying that is well put manyou're a STOIC sage, so cognitive distortion is phrase you here pop up a lot when it comes to assessing another person's emotions, and these are these inaccurate thoughts that you have an your brain. Sometimes they leave to 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 polarize. Thinking right, H, ch, which I think polar 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 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 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 at right, whereas if somebody was raised in house where they were instilled with a lot of confidence and like a great sense of humor right, tha person might just think man, they must be talking about someof the hilarious. I wish I knew what the joke was, or they might have so much confidence in sense of humor. They might even walk up and engage them and say Bhat he gays laughing at right, Huh and it tin, O n, O nothing, never mind. Then you may be on to something right, but there was this.

There's this bog, Pustin maand. 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, toas the gist of it yeah and they actually use that example and they went on to say like even if the person who thinks that that they're laughing at them turns out to be right.

That's that the worst thing that can happen to you yeah, it's fine!

WHO CARES! You know ture like 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 got to have a little more self confidence in the life 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 throug 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 think you can lose it from time to time.

If you're not born with it, you can gain it from time time, but it's not something. I think you have every moment of every day, necessarily yeah boy people with just too much confidence or so annoying.

They really are because everyone wants that. You know. I think, that's why it's annoying sure. Just 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 Iu hate that person wit so much confidence totally lost on the other person. So I have another theory: that'is, not scientific at all. It's just my personal theory that when it comes to guessing things your own not well, your past experienceis 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, O precisely yeah. No, that's absolutely! I agree.

I was going to say thit's absolutely true, but I agree with you yeah because who knows is just a theory right, but I mean it's based. It's based in some pretty ancient folk wisdom like that whole thing about how you know, when you're pointing a finger at somebody, three finger winning at you or judge. Not Less, do 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 dudes 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 I I bet one of the two has happened.

I think, though, more F, what you'R, what you're talking about are like corecore character, trait though, like judge being judgmental rigt or being a liar or you know, being a bs 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 yeah.

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 thereare, these psychologists and all over this article. That Alia just rocked my world with that wrote, and one of them was talking about these interpretations without evidence and her advice, which is very simple, and it seems like an no brainer, though, is to like, maybe just focus on things. You know to be true and not inventing and surmising like well what, if WBAT, 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's 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 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 alrt you wan to 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 it. rockpaper scissors and apes and guessing all right. So Weve 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 right because that's another kind of guessing it's you know guessing runs the Gamit 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 test, you would be penalized for an incorrect guess. I don't remember that. Do you yeah yeah, if you get something wrong, it's like a quarterpoint deduction, I think, was the deal it sounds familiar. I think I may have blocked it out, but they don't do that anymore. So now they say: Guest Gues! Guess if you don't know the answer, and you know theretheyre that has run the gammit from always guestse, 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 guess, B and you're going to be right, one out of every five times. If it's abcde right, which makes sense, though I mean because sort of, 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, H, r, her brother Yeah and he did actual research on he studied tests and did a statistical analysis of one hundred different test, ranging from Middle School, High School College, professional exams, drivers, sess, fire fighters, radio operators, he studied all kinds of test all right and he has four what he calls four ways: Outsmart multiple choice test and a couple of these make a lot of sense to me.


The first one he said is to ignore commensional 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 ono Ye Bove 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. Fifty two percent of the time yeah. So if 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, an get knowledge of your subject by studying ahead of time, but he saying, if you're facing a question on a multiple choice test, and you have no idea what the answer is.

You there's some techniques you can jose to to increase the likelihood that your guests will be right right, so all the above an on the above. If you really have no idea about that, I would, I would say, pick that one H, 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's true most of the time, you have to add qualifying language right to make it absolutely true, because you don't want somebody come back and be 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 testwriters probably not going to go to the trouble of making the wrong answers.

Similarly long right, so the longest answer is very frequently the correcting answe yeah. I thought that one is a really good piece of advice.

THAT'S SOM ONE! I always heard that's really the only one I've ever known, O really did you. 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 think never did bad, because the 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 wow and it was bad and I looke 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 a good kid and a good student. I'm surprised to hear this. I know, but it sticks 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 outed, myself, yeah all right. So one of the other pieces of advice from Dr Poundstone Doctor Don'y think it's oer he's no doctor.

He did write a book, though it's called rock brakes scissors colan.

What does everything ens Havea Colon? Now?

It makes it smarter rock break scissors, Colon, a practical guide to outguessing and outwitting. Almost everybody, one of his other ones, is to look at the surrounding answers, because he's found that the correct answer choices are rarely repeated consecutively, so you rarely get two bees 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 I you've just whittled down your options: Yep notvice, no, not not a at all. What else and the last twenties got 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 for get rid of that two of them are similar git rid of those two you're down to two. You got a I fifty chance of getting it right yeah. I thought the example Thet Usin here was pretty fascinating because they didn't even use the question or give the question on this sat practice test. They just govee. The answer for abcde haphazard is to radical inherent is to controversial improvises to startling, methodical as to 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 ten 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 ANDC, haphazard and improvised are really close.

So he says you should eliminate those two as well Yeph.

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 everrun into hahazard radical inherent controversial, improvise, startling, methodical revolutionary and derivative gradual. You want to go with D, methodical revolutionary and we just got you into college yeah.

You ever wanted to take the sat again like now.

No, no, that's funny!

I really now I've never wanted to I've. WASI'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! It's fine!

I'll get by on my my wit and real life skills. Look at you! You've done great! I've done! Okay, 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 Yep.

They have a German outfit called appropriately motherboard. Germany and they ran a post called win at rock paper scissors every time with math colon, what's with the colons, 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 do the research, but they got together with some researchers at the University of Hang Zoo 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 tracke that please charlies. Let us stop and they said No.

This is communist China do it again again, so 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, but I mean there's always like the what they called in rock paper saysors the October surprise, where somebody just pulled something out of nowhere.

Wyt, so I mean no dynamite right, yeahyeah. Those are offshoots, remember, kids, that would do those, Oh really, oh Yeahye, some interesting people yeah, they would add other other weapons, basically well th. 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 twenty five or twenty six different different possiblet. 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, okay, there's a few things in this. This falls inline 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 fore knowledge, you can better guess at what your opponentis going to come at you with an a game. OROCK paper scissors, starting with that men, tend to open a game with rock. Of course they do yeah. It's such a man thing brock smash.

You know right! So, if you're, if your opponent as a man and there's pretty good chance, heyre going to come out with rock a 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 cind of sounterect themselves or contradict themselves statistically more women play rock paper scissors. I guess is that true, 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 Bay bruth move, say what you're going to pick for the game like I'm going to pick scissors next and then the person's like they're not going to pick scissors, but you just syched them out, and when you throw scissors baby they're going to be blown away because they threw paper D, they thought you were going to throw a rock yeah.

It's like that, the princess bride.

What part was that with the man sitting at the place talking about the Poson drink?

Oh yeah Y H remember like yeah trying to get the other guy to drink the poison, drink, Mayi, wis Ha over Ma Yeah. He was awesome, yeah inconceivable.

What is another strategy to counterattack? 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 oaround 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 a second ago 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 one don't do that right and that'll frustrate them to that's the brockpaper siysors version of why you hitting yourself.

We you get into that thing. When you're you both throw rock 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.

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, okay, but basically so so let me give you an example. Here, okay, 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 on 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 mere neurons, where, if we see somebody doing something, our mere 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 ake, you guess the person's going to rub it on their shirfers before taking a bite, that's showing off, but that's so your Mirre nurons are the part of your brain. That's triggered that 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 lends 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 robbiting out in their shirt, taking a bite putting it away in a cupboard throwing it at a wall, yeah and then you're going to pair down based on what you know about that person like is that person neatfreak, if so, they're, probably going to put that apple away in a cupboard which who does that yeah except for NEAT freaks? And you maybe right it at your guess, right well: They're! Definitely not wall throwers, at least right right, Ga witdle down your guesses yeah!

So if and that's that's how that's? How? Apparently, that's one theory for how we make guesses starting from brain base 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 right where we are have a capability of bestowing the idea that other people have thoughts and feelings on other people right that we 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 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 shows like a higher form of reasoning. That was basically the gist of it. Okay, that makes sense, and they found that true and chimpanzis Banobos and a rangot things.

That's pretty neat.

It is, and one of the so sasasha Baron Coen his cousin Simon Baron Cohen, is one of the leaders in in theory of mine. Oh really, yeah wee 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 a more difficulty, attributing mental states and theory of mind to other people than people who don't have autism right right, andbut, one of the one of the ways that they find this out and I think one of the ways that they detect autism ind young kids, is by attributing false police to other people. This is like a early part of human development, and apparently apes are good at it too, where you are an observer right and you're watching a scene and there's a little boy named Tommy, Ind 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.

Whill Sallie comes in, and the narrator says Sally is really hungry for three musketeers. She knows it was last on the table.

Where is she going to look for the Three Musketeers and people with with theory of mine who are able to attribute false police to other people, will say well, Sally's gonna 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 in specifically, if you're testing for autism that child the child with artism might say, Wat, Sally's Goingto go look in the drawer because that's where it is, they have trouble attributing false peliece to people. What's true is true, and everybody would know that right and that's one way that they test for Aulitism, and it has to do with theory of mine. Interesting, isn't it yeah and it all has to do with guessing it all has to do with guessing man.

You get anything else well, just that Tommy should not be so touchy well yeah and like share the three musketeers yeah. There's you no, I o round. 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 Yo yeah interesting?

Well, that's itit about three muscueteers for today and hey chuck before we go to listener mail. I want to give a huge congratulations from us to stepen and Jane Oure Buddies. The bars on the birth of their first born child yeah. How about that?

Congratulations! You guys! tood looking baby to yeah is they're, not all good. Looking, no, no it's true, especially like right after birth and because their New Yorkers, they walked home from the hospital rigt like how great is that they I'm surprised they didn't take the subway, but yeah you do it is they are pretty New York. It's awesome, yeah! We congratulations its one! gratulations bars, okay! Well, since we sink congratulations, bars is time for listener. T me yeah. This is a little long, but it's about registering to vote in Texas.

We got an email for Monica and her story goes as such.

Two Thousand and thirteen n move from Alabama to Texas an a really horrific time, trying to redister a vote. Fhere I went to the county clerks office. I looked online to check what I needed downloaded the application, so I could have filled out in advance.

It took my Alabama driver's license.

I lease my Bert Certificate and because I am divorced, my divorce decree stipulating my legal name change.

You probably think that wouldbe else you needed right right.

No, no! Once I got there, I was told that the lease was not sufficient, prove residency and that I would need to bring two pieces of official mail like utility bill textbill. So I leave after spending the better part of a day waiting in line waiting for my powering gas bill to come in order to add the other documents. Coupe weeks later, with all of the documents in hand, it 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.

Manthis 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 Hend. 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 a draw at noon in the center of town, with the JU shoot out. What's that called it shoot out a quick draw 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 at ballid because it was dudicated in Alabama that I am going to have to go through the whole process of getting a divorce again for t to be official in Texas. Is that correct this reply, Wa as well, when you put it that way, it sounds silly, but yes shouh. I demanded to speak with the supervisor.

Clark 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 notarize, and this should be all you need, because of the Constitution of the United States, that all judicial rulings and contracts that are Balid one state are ballid in every state.

At that point, the clerk walked off.

The supervisor said: Okay gave mystuff to another clerk who 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 I would have gone.

I would have been an hourly worker had less of an understanding boss and not known about the INS and Ounte 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 poter registration and participation and they work spectacularly well.

Man Net is Monica's story, thanks, Monica and welcome to Texas, too, by the way yeah.

If you want to get in touch with this 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, Um Clark and at Sysk podcast on twitter.

You can hang out with chuck at Charles W Chuck Brian on facebook or at facebookcom slsh stuff. We should know you can send us an email, the stuff, podcast, Tha House, stuff workscom and is always joined a sort her home on the web. Stuffyou should nowcom Stuff You Should Know, is production of iheart radios, howsestaff works for or podcast to my heart radio, because it tha, I hat radio, a apple podcast Ow, wherever you listen to your favorite, shows

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