A young boy and his father are in a terrible automobile accident.  They are both put into an ambulance and rushed to the hospital.  On the way to the hospital the father dies from his injuries in the accident.  Once at the hospital the boy is rushed into emergency surgery.   The surgeon looks at the boy and then backs away and says: “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son!”.

The question is how is this possible?


DoctorThis is an excellent example of how certain questions can take advantage of our automatic assumptions.  The answer is . . . the surgeon is his mother.

Once we hear the answer, we all laugh at ourselves and say the same thing, “Of Course”.   We all realize we were victims of gender stereotyping. It is interesting to know that when this question is posed to children under 13, they had little trouble answering the question.  They have not been conditioned to believe that only men can be surgeons.  Some other answers from the younger group also surprised the researchers.  Some of the kids answered that the surgeon might have been his “step-dad”.  With today’s extended families, these are answers that say baby boomers don’t automatically think of.  Another answer was also a man and this was normal because both of the child’s parents were men.

If you have not seen the movie, “The Bad News Bears”  (1976), there is an excellent scene where Walter Matthau breaks down the word “Assumption”.  If you have not seen this particular scene..it is worth renting the movie for. (Note: this is the original movie, not the 2005 remake.)

Here are some other assumption traps:

The blue car is going 20 miles an hour.  The red car is going 40 miles an hour.  The blue car passes the red car.  How is this possible?


red and blue carYou’re not going to like this answer….but it is fair…. they are going in opposite directions.  Tell the truth, when you read the question you assumed the cars were going in the same direction, but the sentences never gave a direction, only speeds.  You filled in the blanks as you wished.


You are locked inside your car.  You are desperate to get out.  You look around and all you see is a pack of gum, a flashlight, and a hammer.  How do you get out?


SledgeHammerGlass2If you said that you broke the car window with the hammer, I can’t fault you for getting out of the locked car.  I’m sure that would get you out.  However, unlocking the car door might have been a more efficient solution.  The way the question was worded, most people make the assumption that they are somehow unable to unlock the door.  What does locked inside your car mean?  It’s like saying, I’ve locked myself inside my house.  I can get out…you just can’t get in.  Assumptions . . . they can make an . . . . well watch the movie “Bad News Bears”.