When confronted with a difficult question, well often replace it with an easier one - and knowingly so.
If a bat and ball together cost $1.10, and the bat costs one dollar more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?
This problem is what researchers at the National Center for Scientific Research refer to as the “bat-and-ball” problem. Most people intuitively respond that the ball costs ten cents, but the correct answer is actually five cents.
We’re lazy and we know it
According to the recent study, the issue is not that we don’t know how to figure out the answer; the problem is most of us are intellectually lazy. That is, we often substitute difficult questions with easier ones.
What researchers discovered in their study was that many participants were aware they were answering the question wrong. This was shown by having respondents indicate how confident they were in their answers. For the bat-and-ball question, where only 21 percent of the 248 participants answered the question correctly, most indicated they were not confident in their response compared to an easier control question (A magazine and a banana together cost $2.90. The magazine costs $2. How much does the banana cost? [Answer]).
The authors comment: “Although we might be cognitive misers, we are not happy fools who blindly answer erroneous questions without realizing it.”
Interested in reading more about brain matters?