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Wasson's Four Card Reasoning


Labels are printed with either an A or E on the front and a 2 or 3 on the back. Some of the labels are printed incorrectly, and you are given the job of checking to ensure that if a label has an E on the front, then a 2 is printed on the back. Which of the labels would you have to turn over to make sure that every label with an E on the front also has a 2 on the back?

Answer: Cards 3 and E

Nearly 80% of students answer this incorrectly, but when the question is rephrased (as below) only 30% get it wrong:

Your job is to check that sales receipts of R100 and over have been approved by the store’s sales manager. Which would you have to turn over to check the rule is being followed?

Why do people find the above example easier? It’s because we have a framework for checking receipts, but unless we have a maths and logic background, we did not have one for the numbers/letters example.

This set breaker, developed by British Psychologist Gordon Wasson, is an example of a ‘logical puzzle’. Those who have received training in mathematics or other forms of logic would probably have scoffed at this example, in the same way that we sometimes forget that consumers do not have well developed problemsolving schemas for using our brands. We only have to look at the instruction manual for appliances to realise how far the manufacturer’s thinking process is from the consumer.

Wasson's Four Card Reasoning

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