Monday, April 23, 2012

Overthinking and Creativity - Think Like Child

From Life Hacker, look at the puzzle to the left. How long does it take you to solve?

Preschoolers solve in 5-10 min, whereas programmers take an hour. Overthinking is a real problem at times, and sometimes to solve certain problems, a little ignorance is bliss (the solution is at the end of this post).

We see this with some of our most divergent students. They overthink questions and come up with several well-reasoned possibilities (our favorite subtest for this on the WISC-IV IQ test is 'Picture Concepts) where the answer key lists only one.

The immediate practical results of over thinkers on the WISC-IV are: 1. over thinkers take longer because they think of many more possibilities than the one accepted answer, and 2. their reasoning ability can be very underestimated if they mention an alternate possibility as the final answer instead of the conventionally accepted one.

But the Lifehacker study's main point is that over thinkers are disadvantaged in this task because they focus on meanings and patterns that more naive test takers (here, children) wouldn't even consider.

The biographies of many eminent people often mention that as adults these individuals retained a certain child-like quality of questioning basic facts and assumptions. The question is, is this something we're borne with, or is it something we can cultivate?

Here's a nice blog post from the J Curve about famous scientists who liked thinking like children.

Some great quotes:

"I know not what I appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore” – Sir Isaac Newton

“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”
– Albert Einstein

Answer to the numbers question

The ques­tion has noth­ing to do with math­e­mat­ics. Look for the closed loops or shapes in each num­ber and count them. In 0, 6, 8 and 9. 8 has two of them. 2581 has two. The answer is 2.


  1. I got the right answer in under a minute,but just in a totally different way. I looked at the numbers 2=0, because 2222=0, 1=0 because 1111=0. 3333 = 0, 9=1 because 9999=4, and since 8193=3, 8=2 therefore,2581=2

    1. Same method as you... in under a minute. And plenty of higher education.

    2. Same here took me a minute figuring out the same logic well hell yeah i am a programmer....

    3. Same here and same method took me a minute...well as it says i do not agree because hell yeah! I am a programmer...:P

  2. I used logic to get my answer in under a minute. I decided that if preschool children got the answer quickly, it couldn't have anything to do with math ... patterns, or counting, or calculating. So, I thought like a child and figured out to look for the "circles." I'm definitely an overthinker, but I'm also highly logical, which helped me in this problem.

  3. Ten seconds. I feel like the problem was advertised as much harder than it is.

  4. Reminds me of a puzzle I read not long ago:

    "Which of these verbs is not like the others? bring, buy, catch, draw, fight, find, teach, think"

    When I read "catch, fight" I thought of "catch fish" -- which led me to notice that "think" was the only verb that couldn't take a concrete direct object (you can bring a fish, you can buy a fish, you can catch a fish, you can draw a fish, you can fight a fish, you can find a fish, you can teach a fish to swim, but you can't think a fish). But that wasn't the answer on the next page.

  5. People who answ quickly and think they are correct because they reached 2 are missing the point. Applying the same reasoning to all the sums means you're answer would be incorrect. 1111 = 0 but 1012 = 1

  6. Quick people missed point. Look at your reasoning. 1111 = 0 but 1012 = 1.

  7. that's because 0 is worth 1. 1 is equal to a value of 0 :)
    so it's like adding,
    A) 1+1+1+1 = 0 and 1+0+1+2 = 1
    B) 0+0+0+0 = 0 and 0+1+0+0 = 1

  8. Since the number of closed loops per digit remains constant every time the number appears, applying a quantitative value to each digit yields the same answer as if we simply counted the loops in each series of four digits.

    I wish I had noticed the closed loops, but after trying several other incorrect methods, I solved it in under ten minutes by assigning values to each number and adding them. Basically, each number is a "text" variable.