Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Interesting question

Near the end of the semester, in the teachers' room at lunchtime, one of the guys asked everybody a question.

"Imagine you are running a race," he said. "You pass the person who is in second place. What position are you in now?"

One of the people who got it wrong reacted by getting astonishingly angry.

"Say the question again?" she said, and when he repeated it, she said, "YOU WORDED IT DIFFERENTLY LAST TIME. YOU'RE TRYING TO CONFUSE ME!"

Then she gave the same wrong answer she'd given the first time. The guy who'd asked the question caught my eye, and we both laughed. She got madder, and kept insisting she was right. Somehow, this question really hit a nerve with her. I had never seen her so worked up.

Other people were asking,

"So what's the answer, then?"

He pointed at me.

"You were the only person to get it right away," he said, and I tried not to look smug. At the same time, I was relieved. I had been trying to figure out why everyone had a different answer from mine. I'd been thinking I'd made some sort of embarrassing mistake, but couldn't figure out what it was.

At home I tried the question on The Man. He answered it wrongly, and when I laughed, he made me say the question again. Then he got mad.


What an interesting little question!

5 comments: said...

What is the answer? I would say second place. My first inclination was to say first place, but after giving it a moment's thought I realized it woudl be second place.

kenju said...

I got caught in that trap some time ago, and now I know the

torrygirl said...

I'm always cautious when people ask questions like that because you know straight off that it's some sort of trick!

Badaunt said...

Carrie, of COURSE you are right! But I didn't hear you throw a tantrum when you were wrong on your first guess. :-) You're supposed to have a wee hissy fit.

Kenju: Ah, but did you get it right the first time?

Torrygirl: I didn't actually think it was a trick question, which was a bit odd, I've since realized. Or rather, I thought it was and that I must have got it wrong.

Perhaps it's because I'm so sickeningly obedient. He said, "Imagine you're in a race..." and that's exactly what I did. I imagined the two runners ahead of me, and I imagined passing the one in second, and now I was in second, yay! and all I had to do now was to pass the runner in first! So when most people were saying, "First," then I was frantically trying to figure out what the trick was and how they got that answer and how I got it wrong.

But I suspect that most people think something like, "The person in front of the person in second is in first place," which is logical and correct, except that the person in second stops being in second the moment you pass them...

It's a fun question to ask people, though. So far everybody I have asked has got it wrong except one, who got it wrong first but quickly corrected herself.

Roy said...

I wonder if people who answer correctly are more visually oriented, as that is a simple question if you had formed a picture of the race in your head as you imagined it.