# Can you be outwitted by a goldfish?

February 22, 2002 6:59 PM Subscribe

Can you be outwitted by a goldfish? Forgot the attention span debate: follow the link and try to figure out the card trick. (Via PhotoDude).

I remember doing another version of this a while back. I'm so thick that it took me about 6 tries before I got it.

posted by RobertLoch at 7:03 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by RobertLoch at 7:03 PM on February 22, 2002

Amusing the first time I saw it back in 98...and like RobertLock, it took me (ahem)...SEVERAL rounds (OK, about eight) to figure it out. I like the goldfish angle on this version!

posted by davidmsc at 7:06 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by davidmsc at 7:06 PM on February 22, 2002

it would have been better if i wasn't anally observant (i've read wayyyyyyyyyy too much Sherlock Holmes). i got it on the first try. Sorry.

posted by Ufez Jones at 7:10 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by Ufez Jones at 7:10 PM on February 22, 2002

You know I thought a similar trick was linked here before, but I can't find it.

posted by riffola at 7:14 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by riffola at 7:14 PM on February 22, 2002

I got it. I needed a pen & paper, alas... Still, clever trick.

posted by Dark Messiah at 7:15 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by Dark Messiah at 7:15 PM on February 22, 2002

This is, to me, not as interesting a trick as, say this one.

Or, this other one, which I remember stunned me when a friend caught me on this one as a kid. I honestly thought, at least briefly, that he could read minds.

posted by vacapinta at 7:17 PM on February 22, 2002

Or, this other one, which I remember stunned me when a friend caught me on this one as a kid. I honestly thought, at least briefly, that he could read minds.

posted by vacapinta at 7:17 PM on February 22, 2002

I got it, but only after first suspecting that this was another behavioral thing - like counting the number of i's in a sentence.

doh!

posted by xammerboy at 7:19 PM on February 22, 2002

doh!

posted by xammerboy at 7:19 PM on February 22, 2002

Yeah, this is the most basic card trick there is. If you've seen one like it, it's immediately obvious. Fun watching people try to figure it out, though.

posted by Kevs at 7:30 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by Kevs at 7:30 PM on February 22, 2002

okay, i'm a dumbass. can someone email me and tell me how the card trick works?

posted by centrs at 8:58 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by centrs at 8:58 PM on February 22, 2002

Took three rounds for me. First round: "Whoa! That was a freaky coincidence! Wonder if I was subconsciously hovering my mouse near my card..." Second round: "Dude!! That *can't* be a coincidence. I'm gonna keep my cursor way over here..." Eventually, the tumblers clicked. I take a schadenfreudenlich comfort in knowing that I at least figured it out faster than some people. Not to knock such people -- after all, figuring it out fast kind of depends on mental luck.

And for all you people who haven't figured out the secret yet - the goldfish is really a guy. And yes, I still say "Dude". So what? At least I figured out the goldfish trick. So nyah.

posted by skoosh at 9:07 PM on February 22, 2002

And for all you people who haven't figured out the secret yet - the goldfish is really a guy. And yes, I still say "Dude". So what? At least I figured out the goldfish trick. So nyah.

posted by skoosh at 9:07 PM on February 22, 2002

heh heh heh. brilliant. tempeted as i am to post the solution, its kinda funny to think of people going nuts out there trying to figure it out. Not that it didnt drive me temporarily (more) insane that is. well executed also.

SPOILER:

the butler did it.

posted by toxicsoul at 9:10 PM on February 22, 2002

SPOILER:

the butler did it.

posted by toxicsoul at 9:10 PM on February 22, 2002

Does anyone have the solution for vacapinta's first trick? I'm completed confuzzled!

posted by Dark Messiah at 9:35 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by Dark Messiah at 9:35 PM on February 22, 2002

*Does anyone have the solution for vacapinta's first trick?*

Is it just that you were doing addition so you naturally do subtraction next? Or is it that we tend to choose

**that**number anyway, and the sums just get you to say the first number that comes into your head?

posted by Gaz at 9:49 PM on February 22, 2002

My theory: 12+5 = 1

posted by Kevs at 10:08 PM on February 22, 2002

**7**. 12-5=7. So with all that mathematics going on, we naturally tend to pick the number in our head. Heh, I picked "4" first, because I wasn't paying enough attention apparently, but then chose "7" when I noticed my mistake. Interesting trick.posted by Kevs at 10:08 PM on February 22, 2002

The explanation of the 1-4 trick ("people pick numbers with more curves on them") is silly. What probably happens is, we naturally gravitate to the middle of the range, and since 2.5 isn't a choice, we pick the one immediately to the "right" of it. (In cultures that read from right to left, people might pick the one to the "left" instead, but then, probably the number line goes right to left too, so the result would be the same.)

posted by kindall at 10:31 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by kindall at 10:31 PM on February 22, 2002

I chose "9" for vacapinta's trick - I wasn't thinking about math so much as sets, with the whole 4 - 8 - 16 - 32 thing going on, so "7" didn't seem especially related. Of course going from 2 squared/ cubed etc, to 3 squared makes sense in that scenario. Or it could be that i picked the "other magic number" - we just like 7 and 9...

posted by mdn at 10:47 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by mdn at 10:47 PM on February 22, 2002

Same trick, at an easier to remember url : magiccardtrick.com. It fooled me for all of 15 seconds, really, I thought it had detected where I had hovered my mouse.

BTW, when I choose a number between 1 and 10, I usually choose p.

posted by bobo123 at 11:07 PM on February 22, 2002

BTW, when I choose a number between 1 and 10, I usually choose p.

posted by bobo123 at 11:07 PM on February 22, 2002

There's a wonderful study out there that shows that when you ask people to pick a random number in between 1 and 20, they are FAR more likely to pick 7, 13, or 17 than other numbers.

If it were

The going theory is that people unconsciously confuse "random" with "unusual" - and so even numbers, and numbers divisible by 5, tend to not get chosen because they're seen as "common".

I imagine the same principle is at work in vacapinta's trick.

posted by Chanther at 5:04 AM on February 23, 2002

If it were

*truly*random, of course, every number would have the same chance of being picked.The going theory is that people unconsciously confuse "random" with "unusual" - and so even numbers, and numbers divisible by 5, tend to not get chosen because they're seen as "common".

I imagine the same principle is at work in vacapinta's trick.

posted by Chanther at 5:04 AM on February 23, 2002

This would have to be my favourite 'math trick'. (Scroll down to find the start of the instructions.)

posted by chrismear at 7:26 AM on February 23, 2002

posted by chrismear at 7:26 AM on February 23, 2002

Interestingly: when I was a waiter in the mid-80s, I kept a business-sized card in my wallet. On the front side, near the top, were the words: PICK A NUMBER. In the middle of the card, evenly spaced, were the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4. I would display this card to lovely young ladies at the restaurant (assuming they were "cool"), and roughly 80% of the time, they would pick the number 3. If guys happened to be part of the table, they would select 1, 2, and 4 as often as the 3. The punch line, such as it was to my hormone-addled brain, is that the back of the card read:

To this day, I have no idea how or why this trick worked so often on women. Any ideas...?

posted by davidmsc at 8:45 AM on February 23, 2002

**All sex maniacs pick 3**.To this day, I have no idea how or why this trick worked so often on women. Any ideas...?

posted by davidmsc at 8:45 AM on February 23, 2002

Here's my theory, based on no education in psychology:

Humans have a flawed notion of randomness, especially when we pick the first number that comes to mind.

If you give a person any number range, say, 1-10 or 1-4, and tell them to pick a number, they probably won't pick and end point, since that doesn't seem random. A random number is closer to the middle. They also won't pick even numbers or multiples of 5, since 2 and 5 are factors of 10. Our number system is base 10, so the easiest calculations to do in our heads are multiplying and dividing by 2 and 5. Therefore, multiples of 2 and 5 are more familiar, and seem less random. I think they are also more likely to pick prime numbers (except 2) since we try to avoid doing calculations with prime numbers in our heads.

At least, those are the rules that govern our first impulse. In the 1-4 trick, I don't think we pick 3 because "it has more curves", but because it's in the middle, and it's prime.

If we think for a second, we can override our prejudices towards randomness, and realize that 1, 2, and 4 are just as random as 3.

posted by ktheory at 9:51 AM on February 23, 2002

Humans have a flawed notion of randomness, especially when we pick the first number that comes to mind.

If you give a person any number range, say, 1-10 or 1-4, and tell them to pick a number, they probably won't pick and end point, since that doesn't seem random. A random number is closer to the middle. They also won't pick even numbers or multiples of 5, since 2 and 5 are factors of 10. Our number system is base 10, so the easiest calculations to do in our heads are multiplying and dividing by 2 and 5. Therefore, multiples of 2 and 5 are more familiar, and seem less random. I think they are also more likely to pick prime numbers (except 2) since we try to avoid doing calculations with prime numbers in our heads.

At least, those are the rules that govern our first impulse. In the 1-4 trick, I don't think we pick 3 because "it has more curves", but because it's in the middle, and it's prime.

If we think for a second, we can override our prejudices towards randomness, and realize that 1, 2, and 4 are just as random as 3.

posted by ktheory at 9:51 AM on February 23, 2002

I like that everybody has to mention how fast they got it and how obvious this trick was. Reminds me of walking out of the theater after

posted by Hildago at 10:09 AM on February 23, 2002

*The Sixth Sense*. Nobody cares!posted by Hildago at 10:09 AM on February 23, 2002

Feh, I knew Hildago would come along and say that after the third post to this thread.

posted by dchase at 12:25 PM on February 23, 2002

posted by dchase at 12:25 PM on February 23, 2002

Hildago fills us with shame.

A lesson is learned.

posted by Kafkaesque at 4:12 PM on February 23, 2002

A lesson is learned.

posted by Kafkaesque at 4:12 PM on February 23, 2002

*Hildago fills us with shame.*

Weird, that's the exact same thing my parents say every time I visit them..

posted by Hildago at 5:20 PM on February 23, 2002

For a moment there I was lost...

posted by FidelDonson at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2002

posted by FidelDonson at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2002

(Don't pick seven, don't pick seven, DON'T PICK SEVEN) "Uhh, seven?" (Damn!)

posted by whuppy at 9:39 AM on February 25, 2002

posted by whuppy at 9:39 AM on February 25, 2002

chrismear:

(clicks through, goes through entire trick, returns to MeFi)

I'll get you for that, chrismear!

posted by davidmsc at 4:17 PM on February 25, 2002

*This would have to be my favourite 'math trick'.*(clicks through, goes through entire trick, returns to MeFi)

I'll get you for that, chrismear!

posted by davidmsc at 4:17 PM on February 25, 2002

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...but only after being 'amazed' for a while at the 'trick'.

posted by sillygwailo at 7:00 PM on February 22, 2002