What answer did you get? If you said 10 cents, you’re like most of us, but unfortunately that is wrong. The answer is 5 cents.

The Math:
The total cost is $1.10. The burger costs a dollar more than the fries. If the fries were 10 cents then the burger would be $1.10. When you add the two together you get $1.20.

The Way We Process Information:
The problem has to do with the way our brains processes information. In this case we used what is called the Fast Brain. Our senses bring in so much information that there is no way for us to focus on all of it. As matter of fact we can only focus on an extremely small portion. The only way we make it through the day is because we run most of it on autopilot. Just think about what you have already done today. You got up, got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, brushed your teeth, had some some coffee, balanced yourself as you were walking, found your keys, opened the door, started the car, turned on the radio and then drove to work – probably not even remembering how you got there.

Another reason the brain defaults to Fast Thinking is that it conserves energy. The brain is an energy hog using 20% of the bodies resources. The alternative to fast Thinking is Slow Thinking where we are able to access higher order thinking at a cost – it uses a lot of energy. Research shows that we run the Fast Thinking process 50-80% of the time. It’s just how we are wired.

Here are a few difference between Fast and Slow Thinking:

How You Answered 10 Cents:
The Fast Brain saw a problem (burger and fries) and searched to find the answer. It does this by association. It’s food, but we are looking for money. It has plenty associations to what $1.00 is. It also has quick answers to basic math. Therefore $1.10 total minus $1.00 seems logical. But this brain processing doesn’t worry about logic and it doesn’t check it’s answers. It also uses what is called “fuzzy” association – if something seems close, it is good enough. So in this case it looked “good enough” and instead of using more energy with the Slow Brain it makes a decision and you respond verbally…with an answer that is close, but still wrong. That is why the graphic shows that Fast Thinking is Error Prone.

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