Clever Hans — the horse that was a maths genius

Clever Hans was the name of the horse that became a German celebrity, because of its outstanding ability to solve arithmetic problems and understand the German language. In the early 1900s Clever Hans and its owner von Osten tour the country putting up shows for the people and Hans could be asked 7*2 and Hans would tap its hoof 14 times. At another time a message would be written and shown to Hans 20 — 11 and Hans would tap its hoof 9 times. In 1904 the German board of education appointed a special scientific commission headed by a psychologist to investigate the claim and the commission of 13 members concluded that there was no fraud involved. Even when Hans was separated from its owner it still got all the answers correctly.

But was Clever Hans actually a mathematics genius? In 1907 psychologist Oskar Pfungst conducted an experiment that unveiled the truth! It was discovered that mathematically Hans was as dumb as any horse you can think about, a child of 4 years could have done better. But how was it able to get the answers? It turned out that Clever Hans was a genius when it came to reading facial expressions and body languages. From experience Hans knew that whenever it was asked a question it was supposed to start tapping, so Hans would tap watching the expressions of the people, Hans knew that tension would build, the closer it got to the answer the higher the tension and when Hans got the answer the tension would be replaced with amazement and laughter, so Hans would stop and the crowd would cheer.

We all speak a universal language and that is body language, most of the time we communicate with this language without conscious notice or effort. A person from any part of the world can tell when another person is angry even if they are meeting for the first time, the more one learns to speak and notice this language consciously the better your social interaction becomes, you are having issues interacting socially? Become a student of the universal language.


Eneji Matthew

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