Harvard students are, according to statements and statistics, smarter than others. So for these so-called geniuses, a simple question of logic should not pose a problem, and yet…
Most students at the prestigious university in Massachusetts were not able to find the right answer to this problem:
A baseball bat and a ball cost £1.10. The bat costs a pound more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
And the answer is…
If you answered 10 cents, then you made the same mistake most Harvard students did. They almost all answered 10 cents even though the answer is 5 cents. Why?
Daniel Kahneman, a specialist in behavioural economics, explained to the Business Insider website that bad logic had been used by the students, and probably also by some of the readers of this article:
Right away people will answer that the ball costs 10 cents. This is called an intuitive answer - it seems to be the right one, but it is in fact wrong. If the ball costs 10 cents, then the bat would cost £1.10 and the total would be £1.20.
If you still don’t understand the trick, this is how it breaks down. The bat and the ball cost a total of £1.10. Knowing that the bat costs £1 more than the ball, the ball is sold at the price of 5p and the bat at £1.05. Thus we’re respecting the difference of one pound: 0.05 + 1.05 = 1.10!
More than half of Harvard students were wrong
This question was put to thousands of university students and more than half of Harvard, MIT and Princeton students got it wrong. This percentage reached more than 80% in less prestigious universities.
The problem with this equation is that people are too likely to trust and follow their first intuition when more thought actually needs to be put into it.