Why do we say carrot?

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Why do we say carrot?

Postby rko619 on December 11th, 2009, 5:25 pm 

Try this trick on your friend's: write down the word Carrot on a piece of paper, but don't show the other person. Then tell them to answer the following questions, 4+2, 3+3 and 5+1, then ask them to name a vegetable. Honestly Almost every time, they will say "Carrot.

Once you've done it,my question is (No this post isn't pointless) why do we do that? I had theorised that it was because carrot is a 6 letter word and you get the number 6 in your head, and think of carrot.

So why do we do it?
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby Paralith on December 11th, 2009, 5:42 pm 

"Almost every time" according to your experience and statistically significantly more than random are not necessarily the same thing, lol. I would want to see the numerical results for that experiment on a large sample of people before I would even begin to think this is a real pattern.

On a side note, most people can instantaneously count up to four or five, i.e. with just a glance or momentary thought, without having to actually count up from one. Similarly with words, most people know intuitively if a word has three or four letters. Past that we usually have to count, at least mentally, to be sure of the number of letters in a word. Thus I find it highly unlikely that we would unconsciously choose a six letter word when confronted with the number six. Besides, why carrot? Why not squash? Celery? Those have six letters too.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby rko619 on December 11th, 2009, 5:50 pm 

good point, but please come up with better, that was only a quick theory. I tried it on 13 people and 12 people said carrot. 4 adults said carrot and 8 children/teen's said carrot. You try it on people you'll get similar results, also the boy who said lettuce not carrot had, had the trick done to him early that week.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby Paralith on December 11th, 2009, 6:06 pm 

12 out of 13 is somewhat impressive but certainly not enough to say that this is a definite trend of the human brain, especially if you're going the same test on the same people multiple times! That is not a random sample. No one is going to "come up with better" until you actually show this is a real trend, not to mention that you need to control for the fact that carrots are simply one of the most common vegetables in western countries. Ask people to do other types of math problems that don't involve the number 6 and see if the same thing happens. And no, I'm not going to do it. This is your hypothesis, not mine.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby rko619 on December 11th, 2009, 6:13 pm 

Fine then I'll take a survey some time between now and Wednesday. The survey will include a range of children-adults-older citizens. By Wednesday I will have my results on here. It will include at least 75+ people.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby Paralith on December 11th, 2009, 6:22 pm 

You really need to do a control like asking several of them to simply name a vegetable without doing anything beforehand, or doing a different type of math task. This will control for whether or not it's just because carrots are a very common vegetable.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby rko619 on December 11th, 2009, 6:28 pm 

OK (I've had time to think about how much I actually socialise). I will survey 60 people.

20 people will be asked the original question.
20 people will be asked to simply name a vegetable.
20 people will be asked to answer 3+4, 5+2 and 1+6 and then name a vegetable. (possibly cabbage? lol)
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby BioWizard on December 14th, 2009, 1:28 pm 

rko619 wrote:OK (I've had time to think about how much I actually socialise). I will survey 60 people.

20 people will be asked the original question.
20 people will be asked to simply name a vegetable.
20 people will be asked to answer 3+4, 5+2 and 1+6 and then name a vegetable. (possibly cabbage? lol)



Sounds good, you have your positive and negative controls. Let's see how it goes.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby rko619 on December 14th, 2009, 2:42 pm 

The original question - 17/20 said carrot, 2 said lettuce, 1 said cabbage.
name a vegetable - 19/20 said carrot, one said Brussel sprout (apparently because its Christmas)
3+4, 5+2 and 1+6 and then name a vegetable - 19 said carrot, one said tomato (only to find that it's a fruit.)

I think we can safely say, it's just because it's a common vegetable.

But that raises another question, why not say something else common? e.g. Pea's.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby BioWizard on December 14th, 2009, 3:30 pm 

rko619 wrote:The original question - 17/20 said carrot, 2 said lettuce, 1 said cabbage.
name a vegetable - 19/20 said carrot, one said Brussel sprout (apparently because its Christmas)
3+4, 5+2 and 1+6 and then name a vegetable - 19 said carrot, one said tomato (only to find that it's a fruit.)

I think we can safely say, it's just because it's a common vegetable.

But that raises another question, why not say something else common? e.g. Pea's.


My Freudianesque guess would be because it's phallic? *JK*
Maybe the way we eat carrots can be more engaging than other veggies and thus imprints stronger in peoples' brains?
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby dho on December 15th, 2009, 2:50 pm 

or it could have to do with the fact that anything and everything we see around us that has anything to do with vegetables has a carrot with associated with it. We see it everywhere..........
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby SciameriKen on December 16th, 2009, 11:46 am 

Might be cultural phenomenon. I asked a non-american and got the answer of Cabbage - coincidence? Perhaps, but maybe something to look into

*Update - I asked 2 americans and got the answer of Squash and Corn -- So maybe its regional
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby bose on December 16th, 2009, 5:46 pm 

This sounds like an example of prototype theory which describes how we categorise concepts.

From Wiki: "Prototype theory is a mode of graded categorization in cognitive science, where some members of a category are more central than others. For example, when asked to give an example of the concept furniture, chair is more frequently cited than, say, stool"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prototype_theory

In essence the majority of people, within a particular culture/s, will come up with the same answer when asked to name an object within a category, as this object is the most representative (in terms of their experience) of that category. I imagine this is one of the tools people like Derran Brown (a TV magician/mentalist) use to perform their 'mind reading' tricks. I read that other common answers are peas and cabbage.

Another example is to ask people to quickly name a colour and a tool.....



Supposedly most people say red hammer. I found this website which tested the theory (not exactly great science but its interesting!) which found the majority did say red hammer. They also showed that the maths problem given before the question had no effect.

http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/ ... t_were.php

Although people are very susceptible to priming (i.e an answer is highly influenced by what the person has been exposed to before the question is asked) I cant see how maths would influence such an unrelated question. It may just be another magicians misdirection tool to make it appear to be somehow connected to the maths and throw people how the 'trick' works.

I read a paper a while back (though I dont have a reference to hand, Ill try to find it when I have more time!) that performed brain imaging (fMRI if I recall correctly) while asking people to name an object within a certain category. They showed there was less brain activity when the people named the typical response (i.e carrot/cabbage etc) compared to when they had to think of another object within the same category. This suggests that the common answer is somehow programmed into the brain as the first response and therefore takes less effort to retrieve the word. The extra brain activity that occurred when asked to name a second object suggests there is extra processing required to find this word and may take fractionally longer to retrieve. I imagine this is why the trick works when you need to give an immediate response, as the word that requires less brain processing will be the first one you say.

Im not sure why most people identify one object as the most representative of a category but I imagine its a lot to do with life experience. I would guess most people would say dog or cat if asked to name an animal and these are the animals people generally have the longest exposure to. I agree with the previous posts that the answers would vary depending on culture.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby cbaggage on September 27th, 2011, 4:41 pm 

I wonder how much of it has to do with how "carrot" is six letters long? Or at least, that is what I would have guessed before rko619's experiment where the same number of people just asked to choose any vegetable picked the same one as those who were asked after focusing on the number 6.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby rudeserver on December 30th, 2011, 1:40 pm 

cbaggage wrote:I wonder how much of it has to do with how "carrot" is six letters long? .


It may also have to do with the linkage related to numbers in general, like "14 carat gold", etc...

This trick worked on me many many years ago in high school, where my math teacher had me add numbers that summed to 15. (8 + 7, 6 + 9, 11 + 5, etc..)

If it is simply the case that "carrot" is the most likely prototype for vegetables, then there are 2 things that the activity (in this case: addition) should attempt to do:

1. Consume as much mental energy as possible to make the brain "lazy", forcing it to rely on accessing the prototype (carrot) without having energy available to change it into something else, like a cabbage. This can be accomplished by performing addition. Moderately difficult addition would probably be better than addition that can be obtained from intuition (i.e. 9 + 8 would work better than 2 + 2). Of course this should be adjusted based on the person's age. A young kid may not have 2+2 embedded in memory the same way an older person would, and might give up on trying to perform difficult calculations. If you have them look you in the eye the whole time, you should be able to detect when their brain is in high-gear by the dilation of their pupils.

2. Get the mind in the pattern of quickly saying the first thing that comes to mind, to reduce the likelihood that they will have time to switch to being on-guard. Try keeping the amount of time they have to answer to less than 2 seconds. Get the person into a rhythm of answering the question. The rhythm itself will give them a push to answer more quickly/instinctively. Also, don't correct them if they are wrong when performing a calculation. Simply keep them in the flow of answering.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby Forest_Dump on December 30th, 2011, 2:21 pm 

I think of it as more of a cultural choice. I lean towards being a meat and potato type (although I am very fond of fish and commonly eat in vegetarian restaurants, etc.). But when asked to include vegetable, for example, the first one I always consider is carrots. And I love corn but don't routinely think of it as a vegetable any more than I do potatoes. Even more oddly (?) carrots are not even my favorite vegetable. Brussel sprouts are, by far, followed by asparagus and green beans. But when I go to a store to buy vegetables, carrots seem to be the first thing I grab and then I wonder why I don't eat more vegetables.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby foodforthought on January 7th, 2013, 2:16 am 

Also a test should be run just asking people to name vegetable. This will eliminate or confirm the significance of the math jn this line of question relative to correlation.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby Yvonne on December 12th, 2013, 9:25 am 

I have found that while doing the math, 1+5, 2+4, 3+3, for some or other reason I am thinking of the colour orange. No idea why though so when asked for a vegetable my first thought were what vegetable is orange. thus the answer carrot. I also tried this on a few of my friends, some of them said carrot, other said spinach, squash mainly because it also begins with an S like six. Another theory I had from a friend is that this might have something to do with how your brain works, If you are a math person like me you might think of a carrot if not and you are a more practical person you might think of something else?

Whatever the reason I think a lot more studies needs to be done into this, as I have found that the more people I asked this the more said something else than carrot.

I have also found that those who read this instead of hearing it is more proned to saying carrot. Maybe the visual presentation also has something to do with it.

I am very interested in this and will look forward to an explanation.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby sponge on December 12th, 2013, 11:27 am 

I’ve found that this weird test gets the same result without the preceding sums and I have a theory. I think it might be because of the colour of carrots. In every picture of vegetables, or market stalls full of vegetables, the carrots stand out because of their orangeness amongst all the greens, browns and pale yellows.

Because we have to answer quickly, with the first thing we think of, the colourful carrot catches our attention from our mental image of vegetables.

I’m a little suspicious that those who answer differently might ‘see’ carrot first but then quickly choose something different. People who feel it is important to maintain individuality and who actively strive against the mundane might do this. I probably hold this suspicion because I recognise this personality trait in myself :)
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby Watson on December 12th, 2013, 5:26 pm 

I thought I replied to this thread back when? Maybe I just read it. I agree that not wanting to offer up the true first thought could be part of it. Depends on who's asking. If I was suspicious of why their asking I may offer a false answer.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby AdamJoker on July 24th, 2014, 8:05 am 

"I have found that while doing the math, 1+5, 2+4, 3+3, for some or other reason I am thinking of the colour orange. No idea why though so when asked for a vegetable my first thought were what vegetable is orange. thus the answer carrot."


Very interesting, because I said "pumpkin"!
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby CanadysPeak on July 24th, 2014, 12:20 pm 

AdamJoker » Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:05 am wrote:
"I have found that while doing the math, 1+5, 2+4, 3+3, for some or other reason I am thinking of the colour orange. No idea why though so when asked for a vegetable my first thought were what vegetable is orange. thus the answer carrot."


Very interesting, because I said "pumpkin"!


But is a pumpkin a vegetable?
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby AdamJoker on July 24th, 2014, 12:32 pm 

Well they are eaten cooked, not raw..
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby doogles on July 25th, 2014, 4:08 am 

I found this thread very interesting because it tends to support the theory that we think by association of mental images with other mental images.

As rko619 established in his 20/20/20 test, the mental arithmetic was irrelevant to the answer ‘carrot’ in the first group he studied. The word ‘vegetable’ alone conjured up a first association with the image of a carrot in the minds of his respondents. It would be reasonable to expect that these ‘first’ associations would have a cultural bias, as some posters suggested.

In the same way, the word ‘tool’ conjures up a mental image of a hammer in many people, as pointed out by other contributors. When I asked my wife to name a vegetable today, she responded with ‘carrot’. When I asked her to name a tool, she responded with ‘hammer’.

Another short test, indicating that our thinking can be pre-conditioned, is to ask a subject to answer a series of short questions quickly. In effect you only ask two questions, but the subject thinks there are a number.
1. How do you spell shop? The respondent invariably spells out S-H-O-P.
2 What do you do when you come to a green traffic light? S-T-O-P
That’s all you need to ask. I’ve tried this on scores of people over the years, and the response is predictable that if they answer without hesitation, they invariably answer S.T.O.P. If they hesitate for a second or so, they answer ‘G.R.E.E.N. But the rote answer is always S.T.O.P.

Another similar response can be observed if you ask any person if they can remember any incident at all in their young lives when they were playing with a friend or two at about say the age of 9 or ten. Given a second or two, you then ask if they can see themselves in the scene. If they answer immediately, they always say Y.E.S. If they hesitate for a second or two, they always come up with a rationalisation that they can only see their friends in their minds. The response has always been polarised depending on the length of time they take to answer.

I’ve just realised that in the above paragraph, I’ve typed the word ‘Yes’ in the same manner that I typed the previous answers – a good example of preconditioning.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby doogles on July 25th, 2014, 5:43 pm 

In my last post, the word G.R.E.E.N should have been G.O
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby dlorde on July 25th, 2014, 7:02 pm 

doogles » July 25th, 2014, 10:43 pm wrote:In my last post, the word G.R.E.E.N should have been G.O

A good example of preconditioning ?
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby doogles on July 26th, 2014, 3:09 am 

You are 100% correct Diorde. I'm sometimes ashamed at how primitive my brain appears to be.

But I have found myself subliminally thinking off and on today about why we appear to associate carrot with the word vegetable.

In western education, do we use diagrams of carrots in our early years to illustrate the letter 'C', the colour orange, and as an example of a vegetable etc. Maybe we get exposed to the image of a carrot to the point wherein we develop very strong dendritic connections to the image residue of a carrot in our brains.

And I have a vague memory that we also used diagrams of a hammer for the letter 'H'.
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby dlorde on July 26th, 2014, 7:08 am 

doogles » July 26th, 2014, 8:09 am wrote:... I have found myself subliminally thinking off and on today about why we appear to associate carrot with the word vegetable.

In western education, do we use diagrams of carrots in our early years to illustrate the letter 'C', the colour orange, and as an example of a vegetable etc. Maybe we get exposed to the image of a carrot to the point wherein we develop very strong dendritic connections to the image residue of a carrot in our brains.


Yes; also it's a brightly coloured vegetable, with a distinctive shape, characteristically eaten by rabbits (including Bugs Bunny, which the last generation grew up with), and it's one of the funniest vegetables, along with the turnip (which is less interesting), much as the banana is the funniest fruit. Why they are funny is something else again...
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Re: Why do we say carrot?

Postby doogles on July 26th, 2014, 8:57 pm 

Yes Diorde.

And maybe the 'funny' adjective is also an association with the 'Bugs Bunny' type of cartoons and the 'Bananas in Pyjamas' type of thing
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