The Zen of Puzzles – Part 2

 One of the issues and obstacles that work against the development of the lateral thinking mind is the undisputed reality of preconceived notions, assumptions and biases – these all limit the scope of our creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. 

Here is a simple example: 

Which of the following numbers is most different from the others ?

1) One

2) Thirteen

3) Thirty-one 

Which number do you choose ? 




If you are like most people, you probably assumed that the only numbers that applied to the question were the spelled-out numbers: “one,” “thirteen,” and “thirty-one.” If so, you had a difficult time coming up with a viable answer.

However, if you took an unbiased, “naive” view ( almost as a child might) of the phrase “the following numbers” and included the notational numbers “1), “2). and “3),” then you certainly would have picked the number “2” because it is the only even number and has neither a “1” nor a “3” in it ( as all the other numbers do).

Because we’re so used to seeing the numbers behind the parenthesis as “not part of the problem” ( serving only to enumerate the elements that are part of the problem), it is very difficult to break this assumption and view them as an essential element in the correct solution. 

As a rule people prefer to stay with problems they understand rather than look for solutions they are uncomfortable with. 


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