A Brain Teaser and a Book Giveaway

As promised yesterday, here is the announcement for the giveaway of another fascinating new book. But before we get there, here is a quick brain teaser (excerpted from the book, reprinted with permission). Answer these questions based on what you already know (i.e, this is not a general knowledge quiz, so don't bother to go googling).

1. Driving due south from Detroit, what is the first country you will come to when you leave the U.S.?
      a. Cuba
      b. Canada
      c. Mexico
      d. Guatemala

Now think for a moment about how certain you are that your answer is right. Are you 100% sure? 95% sure? 90%? Or less?

2. Which country derives more than 75% of its energy from nuclear power?
      a. United States
      b. France
      c. Japan
      d. None of the above

Again, take a moment to think about how certain you are that your answer is right. Are you 100% sure? 95% sure? 90%? Or less?

3. Approximately how many microbes live in the typical person’s gastrointestinal tract?
      a. 100 trillion
      b. 100 billion
      c. 100 million
      d. 100,00

Once more, think about how certain you are that your answer is right. Are you 100% sure? 95% sure? 90%? Or less?

Did you answer Mexico for the first one? And how sure were you? 90%? 100%? Well, like most people who responded similarly in the original survey, you would be wrong. The correct answer would be Canada (the city of Windsor, Ontario). Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself!

If you are like most people who participated in the original study, your answer for the second question was probably “None of the above” with around 70% accuracy. Again, you would be wrong, since France relies heavily on nuclear power to meet its energy needs.

Finally, for the third question among the people surveyed people most of them answered 100 million with 50% confidence in their answer. The correct answer is 100 trillion (best reference I could get).

The point of this exercise was not to ask you some trick questions and prove you are wrong, but to point out that it is human nature to feel confident about what we *think* we know. The very fact that I called it a "brain teaser" must have tipped you off that these are trick questions - yet, what was the percentage of confidence you had in your answers? This human psychology of thinking "I Know" plays a huge role in our financial decision. Unlike this trivial exercise, in real life the ignorance of our ignorance can result in severe financial misjudgment – be it investing decisions, retirement planning, estate planning etc. The book "Your Money and Your Brain: How the new science of Neuroeconomics can help make you rich", the subject of this month’s giveaway, does a great job of illustrating the concepts of psychology and brain activity in relationship to the way we handle money. It is an easy-read book (contrary to the image conjured up by the title!) chock full of such exercises, examples, surveys and study results which help realize some of our behavioral quirks and the silly mistakes we make which can cost us a lot of money in the long run. So, go ahead, leave a comment below and enter into the contest to win on of the three copies of the book being given away. And just for kicks (for our own informal survey) in the comment please jot down your answers to the above questions. And please be honest.

I'll go first. Here were my answers when I first read the questions -

1. c. Mexico (100% confidence - "what kind of a question is that – everyone knows that the answer is Mexico!")
2. d. None of the above (~80% confidence- "well if some country generated so much nuclear power, I would have surely heard about it?" )
3. b. 100 billion (25% - basically a 4-sided coin toss)

So stereotypical, I know!!! Yuck.

This should be fun :) The comment form will stay open from now through the end of October and I have three copies of the book to give away. Feel free to mention the giveaway to your friends as well and have them enter too so if you don’t win but they do, you can at least borrow the book from them :) And any help in spreading the word about the giveaway is much appreciated - it won’t affect the odds of winning, but hey, you never know when that good karma will come in for rescue :)

And like the earlier giveaway, a couple of quick reminders. I use blogger which does not require you to enter an email address when you leave a comment. So please either leave a link to your blog or your email address in the comment so I will have a way to inform you if you are a winner. Note that some of the blogger profiles are not public – so if you are linking to your blogger profile, make sure it is shared and I can view it and there is some contact information there. Note: You do not need to have a blog to participate. If you don’t have a blog and are not comfortable leaving your email address in the comments, please email me at ispfmail at gmail dot com and please copy the entire comment into the mail (but please make this the last option). In the previous giveaway I had several participants who signed off as "anonymous" and one of them actually won and it was lucky he left an email address in the comment – otherwise it would be a nightmare trying to contact him! Also, the books will be shipped only to US addresses. If you win and are outside the US, you will have to arrange for someone here in the US to collect the book on your behalf and ship it to you (sorry).

Good Luck, y'all.

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Anastasia said...

My answers were:

1: Cuba: 90%
2: None of the above: 90%
3: 100 Trillion : 90 %

Sounds like an interesting book! :) Thanks for the contest! :


Diane said...

Wow, how interesting! Sadly, I answered Mexico for the first. And how many times have I been to Detroit and skipped over to Windsor? Oh, the shame! I hardly gave it a thought. #2 I thought maybe the U.S. since I was expecting a trick question, and the last was a coin toss for me also. I chose A.

themommyspot (at) gmail (dot) com

Michael said...

My answers were: Mexico (100%), Japan (80%), and 100 trillion (70%).

How valuable it is to know what you don't know, and to admit it.


plonkee said...

Wow, my answers were

1. Canada 100%
2. France 80%
3. 100 Trillion 50%

I remembered about Windsor. I knew that France was really big on nuclear power (its mentioned sometimes in the UK), the 100 trillion was a guess - I thought it would be much more than I'd like it to be.

I think I was more certain than I really should be, but when you think you know...

Ashley said...

1. Mexico (90%)
2. None of the above (75%)
3. 100 Billion (25%)

I thought I was a little smarter than 0 for 3!


ryan said...

1. guatemala with 70% accuracy
2. no clue, but i said US with 70%.
3. 100 trillion with 70%.

i only picked 70% because there was no 0%. i only bet on sure things, and knew i was completely guessing.


Stephanie said...

Well, I was thinking the curve of the earth might be the trick in the first one, so I said Cuba with pretty much no real certainty. I said "None of the Above" for the second one because I don't know anything about France (except that their health care is better and now, well, I know about the nuclear power thing too!) and for the last one, I picked 100 trillion because I knew it would be a lot more than people think! That one I was about 90% sure of.

This seems like a pretty awesome book!

paidtwice said...

I said Canada 100% for the first one. But I used to live in Michigan and drive through Detroit and Windsor so I was lucky lol.

None of the above 50% and I was wrong!

And 100 Trillion 100%... I am a scientist by education after all :)


theseeker said...

Mexico 50% though it might be a trick question but my geography of the US sucks so still didn't expect Canada

France 90% knew France were into their nukes :)

100 billion 90% knew it would be a high number and though a trillion was too high. When I think about it though it was a complete guess yet I still felt confident about it, so the 3rd question really hammered the point it was making home.

ewanmcrobert at gmail dot com

Michele said...

With questions like these, I'm always tipped off that the answer isn't the most obvious one - so I answered Canada (90%), France (80%), and 100 billion (50%).

However, every once in awhile someone asks me a "brain teaser" question like this where the answer actually is the obvious one and I look pretty silly. :)

chellie99 at yahoo.com

Luke said...

My answers were:

1. Canada: 100%
2. France: 100%
3. 100 Billion: 25% (I was hoping you made "b" the right answer for them all. :-)

beth said...

My answers were:
1. Either Canada or Guatamala were at about 95% confidence, but I couldn't decide (I was 100% confident it was *not* Mexico)
2. France, but it was only 65% confidence
3. 100 trillion with about 85% confidence.

I saw the book at Barnes and Noble today, but since I only allowed myself to go there to find a certain magazine, I couldn't buy the book.

thisisbeth at comcast.net

Anja said...

I got Mexico for the first one thinking 100% sure!
Second one I was 100% sure of France. And the third one I didn't have a clue so did what I always do in these questions, guess the most outrageous answer. Which was correct, but I had 25% confidence of getting it right!

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. I thought it was going to be Mexico for the first answer. Oops...

David said...

1. Mexico 100%
2. France 100%
3. 100 Trillion 50%

I thought I was dead sure about Mexico. I actually did read somewhere about France's dependence on nuclear power. That would make a good topic for Blog Action Day :) and I only guessed 100 Trillion because I figured there would be a lot.

The book seems like it would make a really interesting read. Thanks for the contest!

dtai76 at gmail.com

Jenne said...

I picked
1) Mexico (100%)
2) Japan (like ~10%?)
3) 100billion: (50%)

I was so sure that it was Mexico...


Nivek said...

Canada - %100 (I have in-laws in Detroit)

France - 90% (not sure how I knew, just did)

100 Million - 50% (no clue, might as well been a million kajillion)

Anitz said...

As a kid we drove to my aunt every year, who lived in Windsor (I am from the Toronto area), then we drove north to Detroit to go through the tunnel on our way south to go to Florida!
So I had 1. nailed with 100%
Presently I live in Germany and nuclear energy is a hot discussed topic here. So I guessed France (yes, it was a pure guess, at 50% comfort level).
And I lucked out at number three. No comfort level at all, just that the highest number seemed to be the most logical, for no logical reason. Say about 3 % trust in my own judgement.

So, my pop-quiz question: are "foreigners" allowed to enter the draw?

That would be cool. It would be nice to re-enter the English thought world after being in the "old world" for sooooo long.

ispf said...

Anitz: You are welcome to enter. If you win however, you will have to have some friends/family here collect your book and ship it to you. Last month, one of winners was in Canada. And the book I sent to him is currently stuck in some post office for some lame-ass excuse. Also, it is quite expensive to ship internationally. I hope you understand.

Anitz said...

Oh, you are so lovely to even consider. Yes, I have relatives in Canada and friends in the States (who might very well read the book before forwarding!) who could forward the book.

I know how expensive it is to ship to Canada and States from here! Anyway, it is just fun to be able to partake...

Love your blog and wonder: how many children are you teaching finances to by way of Halloween? That was a swell post!

thebaglady said...

that's a fun quiz! I read somewhere that almost half of Americans can't find the United States on a map, so it's even harder to tell where Detroit is.

Anonymous said...

I think I must have missed out on the draw... who won?