I want you to think about going shopping. You are very excited to buy some of your favorite items. You are going to drive to the mall and because of this you will drive through a few intersections. Picture the drive to your local mall in your mind and as you do spell the word “Shop” very quickly five times as if you are psyching yourself up for the fun. See if you can do it without making a mistake. Do it now.
Now, quickly, what do you do when you come to a green light?
If you said STOP . . . Oops, you GO at a green light.
This test is more effective when you speak the instructions to another person. (Try it with your family and friends) When reading the instructions, a higher percentage will catch the mental hick-up of the green light question. But when you do this with your friend as a verbal instruction, you will find that over 90% of the time they will answer . . .Stop!
The reason that most people automatically answer “stop” is that you are accustomed to hearing the question, “ What do you do when you come to a red light?”. But we are not accustomed to hearing the question, “What do you do when you come to a green light?”. Our brain makes an automatic correction on two levels: one, you just spelled shop 3 times and and the word closest to shop is stop and two, you see red not green when you think of a stop light. Although ‘traffic light’ might be a more accurate term, we still use the term ‘stop light’ frequently. It is part of our vocabulary. I know I don’t ever say “Make a turn at the next go light”. I think in terms of it being a stop light for the purpose of stopping. In addition, the mind wants to accomplish things as fast as possible so it makes assumptions. When we hear some instructions or a question our brain skips over the details we feel are unimportant or repetitive and we answer based on what our brain assumed it heard. This happens unconsciously. Very Trippy.