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Trick questions are often designed to confuse or entertain people. Sometimes these types of questions are difficult, but usually the answer is just not as simple as it may initially seem.
The Anatomy of Trick Questions
What is a Trick Question?
A trick question can be used in a variety of circumstances. These types of questions are often used as a type of joke or within the context of a game. Sometimes people label certain questions as a trick if the person asking the question poses it with the intention of confusing or shedding a bad light onto the responder.
Common characteristics of these types of questions include:
- Answers which may seem initially obvious, but which aren’t actually the correct answers. For example, the first impulse to answer the question What do you put into a toaster? with toast is incorrect. Bread is put into a toaster, and then develops into toast, so the correct answer is bread. Many people answer with toast because it is the first answer which comes to mind, and it seems too obvious to be wrong.
- The question is designed to confuse people. Ask someone how many months of the year have twenty-eight days, and the most likely answer you will receive is one, referring to the month of February. The true answer to this question, however, is all the months, because each month within the year indeed has twenty-eight days, even though there are more than twenty-eight days in the majority of months.
- The correct answer is a fact. When the actual answer to the trick question is revealed, it shouldn’t be debatable.
The basic anatomy of a trick question is this: The answer is already known by the person asking the question, and it’s supposed to confuse the person being asked.
Are Trick Questions Used in Academic Situations?
Many students claim that instructors utilize trick questions on exams in order to confuse the students. Although instructors may sometimes use questions that appear to be tricky, most instructors avoid using any type of trick question on tests because they don’t truly test knowledge. Since questions that fall into the category of trick are innately designed to compel responders to answer incorrectly, using them within an academic situation doesn’t make much sense.
Do Lawyers Use These Questions to Trick Witnesses?
Although lawyers sometimes use time-tested techniques in order to examine a witness, in most instances a lawyer will be stopped by the judge if the techniques border on trick questions. A lawyer’s job is to find out the truth, not to confuse witnesses using tricky means.
Do Interviewers Use These Questions?
Anyone who has ever been through a job interview knows that it can be a harrowing experience. Sometimes it can feel as though the interviewer is presenting tricky questions in an attempt to find out the true nature of the interviewee. It would be a bizarre interview indeed to be asked questions like What is worth more: A truck full of dimes or a truck that is only half full of nickels? Questions should pertain to the position, and anything beyond that might be an instance of an interviewer simply checking to see how an applicant handles stressful situations and logic questions.
What Are Some Examples of Trick Questions?
There is a wide variety of trick questions to choose from. Here is a brief listing of some of the most popular ones:
- Upon the death of the Vice President of the United States, who becomes the President? The answer is: The President stays in the position, because it’s the Vice President who died.
- If within a family there are nine brothers, and each brother has one sister, how many people are within the family including the mom and dad? The answer is: 12. There are nine brothers, one sister, and the mom and dad in the family.
- How many 20 cent stamps are within a dozen? The answer is: 12. There are twelve stamps in a dozen regardless of the value of the stamps.
- An airplane traveling 300 mph crashes on the border of Canada and the USA, where would you bury the survivors? The answer is: You don't bury survivors.
There is an endless array of questions like these available online through a variety of sources.