A little thought can make all the difference

3 Questions – Is Your First Answer Correct?

baseball-bat-and-ballYour personal safety is determined one decision at a time. Sometimes you are dependent on the decisions of others. Other drivers, your doctor, the guy who puts new brakes in your car. But how does your personal decision process work? Do you know? Take a moment to answer these three questions:

  1. A ball and a bat cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
  2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
  3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

Each of these questions has an incorrect answer that many people quickly come to. In fact, in a study where these questions were posed to over 3,000 college students, the average correct score was1.24 out of 3.

Does this mean our intuition is wrong? It all depends on the models we have in our heads. The concept of doubling every day is a geometric progression, which is not in everyone’s day-to-day thinking. Neither is the concept of production planning. But, in the study, people who got all three answers correct were also more consistent in their risk-taking choices. Risk taking, the acceptance or denial of risk, is ultimately a decision process.

What does all this mean? Well primarily it points to the variability of being human. We are not 100% consistent in all we do, including the way in which we choose to protect ourselves. The reason Health and Safety regulations have become what they are is that people don’t always take precautions they could because they are inconvenient, too costly, too time consuming. When the government steps in and says “you must” then people fear the cost of the certain punishment over the cost of the low-probability potential loss.

Are you an independent thinker when it comes to safety, or do you rely on regulations and on the expectation that all products are designed with our safety in mind?

So you can check your scores, the answers to the three questions are here:

  1. The bat is $1.05, and the ball is $0.05.
  2. 5 minutes
  3. 47 days

If you got all these correct, then you have some pretty clear thinking going on. I hope that extends to your choices regarding safety. Don’t forget, let’s be careful out there.

Anna at abdpbt is responsible for the effort to Fight Listless Mondays. Find other list links on her blog. Her lists and the others linked there always give you something to think about, and may even make you smile!

One Response to 3 Questions – Is Your First Answer Correct?

  1. ABDPBTNo Gravatar says:

    I got all of them wrong. What are you trying to do to my self-esteem, Tim?


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