Can you solve this? 80 per cent get this puzzle wrong

It's puzzle time, Internet style!

Remember when the world wide web couldn't figure out the colours of a dress or tried to solve primary school mathematical puzzles or spot a cat among owls in a photo illustration?

Well, here's another.

The Guardian has a column called 'Alex Bellos's Monday puzzle', that appears every second Monday, where various puzzles are posted for the public to figure things out.

Easy? Not quite.

Yesterday's puzzle involved a question where most people got it wrong.

Here it is:

Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married, but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

A: Yes

B: No

C: Cannot be determined

My answer was C, together with about 68 per cent of the 200,000 submissions received.

Mr Bellos said in The Guardian article that he "wanted to test if it really was the case that more than 80 per cent of people choose C."

His theory was correct - more than 72 per cent chose the wrong answer despite knowing that it was possibly a tricky question.

And why is the question a tricky one? It apparently gives you insufficient information - Anne's marital status is not known nor can it be determined.

Which makes C the most likely annswer - right? Wrong.

(Spoiler alert) The article goes on to explain why the correct answer is A with an equation like this:

If '>' means 'looking at' then:

Jack > Anne > George, or

Married > Unknown > Unmarried

If you replace the Unknown with Married or Unmarried, either way a married person is looking at an unmarried one.

Well.

Mr Bellos explained that the puzzle "belongs more to psychology than it does to mathematics or logic", pointing out that it shows the lazy assumptions we make.

Those who got it wrong complained on Twitter that the question was not worded correctly.

Comments that followed the article were just as entertaining.

One user ytrewq said "Jack is married. Why is the b*****d looking at Anne in the first place? Unless George drops dead while she is looking of course in which case is he still married if he was before he did? Why is Jack avoiding George anyway? Something is going on here. Need more information."

And another user Arrasay said: "Married people are always looking at unmarried people. Why is this hard?"

spanaech@sph.com.sg

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