The Moses Illusion: Auditory or Visual Cues?

Posted on May 23 2018

The Moses Illusion: Auditory or Visual Cues?

I’m fascinated by psychology and what makes people tick. My interest in psychology is in the behavioral side of things and how it relates to entrepreneurship and investing. I recently came across an article on the ‘Moses Illusion’, which blew my mind. It seems so simple, yet I totally messed it up like 90 some odd percent of every one else.

The Moses Illusion is essentially this:

  • In the biblical story, what was Jonah swallowed by?
  • How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?

Most people answer “whale” and “two” without a moments hesitation. Actually, Moses took none, because Noah built and staffed the Ark. According to the article, this is just a small example of how bad we are at picking up on factual errors in the world around us. I take this bit of psychological trivia and apply it to investing. How much do we know, or think we know, that just ain’t so? Amused by the concept, and slightly ticked off at missing it, I went around asking friends, acquaintances and colleagues both questions. Some were asked over Jabber, and others were asked in person.

Here’s what I found fascinating. Those asked via texting on Jabber (visual) got it 100% wrong. Of those asked in person (auditory) about 50 percent picked up the Moses versus Noah conundrum. So, (take note Psychology PhD. candidates, I just gave you your thesis. You’re welcome!) does processing the information visually vs auditory make a difference in catching the error?

Sure, my experiment wouldn’t pass muster at a flat earth conference, and isn’t very scientific, but it definitely has me taking pause to really understand and process an idea before jumping to a conclusion. This should help make me a better investor. (I hope)

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