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Lesson 4: Using Brain Teasers to Build Critical Thinking Skills

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Using brain teasers to build critical thinking skills

Here's a brain teaser: a rooster is on the roof of a barn facing east. The wind is blowing to the west at 10 miles per hour. The rooster lays an egg. Which direction does the egg roll?

The answer appears below the image.

an illustration of a rooster on the roof of a barn with an egg at its peak

Answer: There is no egg. The rooster didn't lay one because roosters are male. Did you get it right? Let's pick this apart and see why so many people have difficulty with this brainteaser and so many others.

Watch the video below to learn more about how you can use brain teasers to improve your critical thinking.

The answer is in the details

It's easy to overlook details or accept them without questioning. In the brainteaser above, the answer could be found in the second word: rooster.

an illustration of a rooster looking for an egg in its nest

In hindsight, we realize it's impossible for roosters to lay eggs. But it's easy to overlook this when it's casually mentioned in the brainteaser.

Misdirection

Another process at work in this brain teaser is misdirection. There were several details included that we may have paid too much attention to: the fact that the rooster was facing east and that the wind was blowing west at 10 miles per hour.

an illustration of a rooster facing east and the wind blowing west at 10mph

In the end, these details had nothing to do with the actual answer. However, they seemed important in the context of the brainteaser! This directed us away from the relevant information.

Applying these ideas to the real world

The same techniques we use to solve brain teasers can also be applied to real-world situations. When you're trying to figure something out, it's important to analyze the information that's available to you.

  • Are there any key details I may be missing?
  • Am I being misled by something?
  • Could I be thinking about this in another way?
an illustration of someone asking themselves questions

Brain teasers not only help to keep your mind sharp but can help improve your critical thinking skills as well.

Let's finish things off with another brain teaser...

You have a single match and are in a dark room. The only objects available to you are a candle, an oil lamp, and a gas stove. Which item do you light first?

The answer appears below the image.

illustration of a dark room with a candle, an oil lamp, and a gas stove

Answer: The match!

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