Thursday, October 16, 2014

Surprisingly Not Idiotic

So there's a show on GSN that premiered not too long ago. It's called Idiotest. The basic idea is this: you are given a visual puzzle, and asked to touch where on the screen the correct answer is (and it is guaranteed to be there somewhere). The trick is, the correct answer is rarely the obvious answer. Often, the picture you're given will appear to show four possible options, but the actual correct answer isn't any of them and is off to the side somewhere.

A sample episode should get the idea across about as well as it's going to get across.

Getting a question wrong will, of course, make you look like an idiot. That's what the questions are all designed to do. And eventually you will, because there's a time limit to answer, so you can't take too long. (Although host Ben Glieb has all the questions asked to him beforehand, so he can explain the answers on the show, and usually he does well.) But I think the format is rather instructive. It will drill some concepts into you that you can take outside of the show, silly as it is. (And oh is it silly.) What does a show like Idiotest drill into you?

*First, observation, obviously. That's the whole object. Idiotest is an observation test. Even though answering quickly makes you eligible for more money, it also makes you more likely to rush yourself and answer something obvious-looking without noticing the true answer. Slow down a bit. Actually take in what's in front of you without making a knee-jerk response. Or else you will look like an idiot. (And even one of the side answers may not be correct, because even though it's more valid than any of the obvious answers, there's an even better answer somewhere else.)

*Second, the importance of reading instructions as they are written. Many of the questions involve subtle spelling changes in one of the question words. For instance, in the above episode, one question asks you to 'touch the opposite of not aloud'. An inattentive scan of the question might misread that as 'opposite of not allowed', and the options available clearly anticipate such a thing, as well as any potential problems with double negatives, with 'prohibited' and 'permitted' both on the board. But of course, the question is talking about 'aloud' as in noise, and 'quiet is there as well. (The contestants almost immediately touched 'prohibited', wrong in both respects, and immediately realized their mistake... but the trick of the game is that realizing your mistake a half-second too late is still realizing it too late. Should have looked a little more closely.)

But you can bypass all of this by simply figuring out that the opposite of 'not X' is, well, X. And so what you're supposed to do is touch 'aloud'.

*Third, learning from your mistakes. Again, every single question will be walked through whether the contestant is right or wrong. Because someone at home is surely wrong. And Ben will take great care, and glee, to explain to you the exact magnitude of your wrongness... as you see a couple times in the episode. That kind of negative reinforcement is pretty quickly going to get you trying to adopt the habits that will make you not be wrong anymore.

And hopefully, after the show's over, those same habits will cross over into other parts of your life.

There's an election in a couple weeks. Lot of people making knee-jerk reactions to a lot of things. Lot of people not taking time to read things carefully. Lot of people making mistakes and failing to learn from them.

Don't be an idiot in the voting booth.

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