October 21, 2011


An article in “Live Science” by Stephanie Pappas reports on a recent study from Harvard University that shows people who are intuitive thinkers, as opposed to reflective thinkers, tend to have a higher belief in God. To give an example of intuitive versus reflective thinking Pappas sites one of the word math problems that was used in the study. The question was if a bat cost a dollar more than the ball and the bill came to $1.10, what was the cost of the ball? (“Yahoo News” 9/22/11).

To an intuitive thinker, the answer is that the ball costs 10 cents — a figure derived by subtracting the cost of the bat from the total bill. The reflective thinker, however, will give the correct answer, which is that the ball costs five cents. 

(Yahoo Images)

Okay, I’m scratching my head and remembering my days in grammar school when story problems were introduced. We all remember a classic example:  If train A leaves the station at 3 p.m, traveling at 50 mph while train B, traveling at 45 mph leaves the station one half later and arrives at the same destination at 6 pm, what times does train A arrive at the station?

I used to think the trouble with these word problems was poor writing. Now that I am older I simply wonder why the person who wants information about arrivals and departures doesn’t consult a train schedule. As to the ball and the bat question, I have no idea why the correct answer is five cents. If there’s some reflective thinker out there who could enlighten me, I’d be grateful, as it may be I’ve been overpaying on items for years.