Pranks on the Mind

Said to another person: “Say ‘silk’ 5 times fast (wait for the person), now spell ‘silk’ 3 times fast (wait again), now quick-what does a cow drink?”

Said to another person: “Say ‘pots’ 3 times fast (wait for the person), now spell ‘pots’ 5 times fast (wait again), now quick-what do you do at a green light?”

I learned these pranks when I was middle school, from 2000-2003, but I forgot who taught them to me. Normally, if done well enough, the answers to the questions should come out wrong, “Milk” for the first one and “Stop” for the second one. The progression through each question must be done at a such a pace that whoever is being asked the question doesn’t have enough time for their brain to stop and process what is being asked of them or why. That way, when the last part is delivered, the answer should be the first thing that comes to mind. Usually it is the wrong answer because the person tries to respond quickly in an attempt to maintain the quickness of prompt and response. Therein lays the trickery of course, because trying to achieve the fastest possible reply also causes the person to mishear the final question.

So how do the first prompts of each trick come into play? Well, they focus the person on a certain formula, letters and sound pattern for instance. The spelling and repetition of each word gets the person being tricked into a rhythm, they become accustomed to the sound pattern or letters of each word. Although I am not certain, it is my belief that word association comes into play for the first trick. The human brain naturally connects similar things, such as milk to a cow, and because milk rhymes with silk, the instinctive response is milk even though cows drink water (which is the correct answer). As for the pots and stop, I feel like spelling of pots gets the brain used to those letters. Then, when asked what to do at a green light, the subconscious mind automatically rearranges the familiar consonants and vowels into “stop” instead of taking time to search for the letters in “go.” Sounds odd, since “go” only has two letters, one of which is used in “pots,” but the mind has been trained to say four letters at that point, not just two.

The success rate of actually fooling people with these pranks is very high. Normally, they are not expecting to be tricked at the last minute, so they are not suspicious of what is being asked. However, I have sometimes tricked myself and ruined my own prank by asking, “What do you do at a red light?” This I believe is a result of word association for me, because I already know what is coming and what the answer should be so my mind automatically asks the wrong question, which receives the right answer. It just goes to prove how tricky these pranks really are.