###### 25 August 2011

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1. Murder mystery: The truck driver, mechanic and carpenter are all women, but the fireman is male and the only one who could be called “Wayne”
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2. Shared birthday: They’re two of three triplets.

3. Gun sense: The woman has hiccups, and the barman cured them by scaring her.
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4. Lift or stairs? The man is a dwarf, and can’t reach the button for the tenth floor.
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To solve puzzles 1-4, you have to question your assumptions: that only men do traditionally masculine jobs; that pointing a gun is always an aggressive act; that a person will be of an average body type. Twins are more common than triplets, so we think of them first. Also, we tend to focus on the information put in front of us, and not consider how much we might not know. The brain is skilled at making these assumptions and deductions when it doesn’t have all the information, because most of the time they will be correct.

5. Perfect equality: Cut the cake into quarters – this takes two vertical cuts. Then use the third cut to slice it horizontally, which will divide each quarter in two.

• Reader answer: A more fair method would be to cut the quarters, then line the quarters up so you can cut them all in half with one slice. And then everyone can have a slice with icing on!
• Reader answer: If you make a circular, vertical cut through the top of the cake, you will be left with a round piece in the middle with a ring of cake around it. Cut these in quarters and you have 8 pieces, all with icing. It will admittedly be a bit tricky to ensure all the pieces are equal but it's mathematically possible :) .

This brainteaser exercises your ability to visualise things in three dimensions, to think laterally (a horizontal slice, not just the usual vertical cake-slices), and to plan ahead and evaluate outcomes of actions.
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6. The Stroop Test: Naming the colours in the second test should take longer and require some concentration. This is called “The Stroop Effect”, and has several possible explanations: we might be wired to read words automatically, whereas naming a colour is not such a strong, automatic action. Word processing might be faster than colour processing in our brains. When our brain is trying to do two different things at once – read the word and name the colour – we experience “interference”.

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