Have someone slowly read this list out loud. (If you don¹t have anyone handy, read the list to yourself, then visualize the list with your eyes closed .) Take three minutes to write down all the words you remember.
sour nice candy
honey sugar soda
bitter chocolate good
heart taste cake
tooth tart pie
Okay, now try the same thing again with this list.
mad wrath fear
happy hate fight
rage hatred temper
mean fury calm
ire emotion enrage
Finally, compare the words that you wrote down to the original two lists.
Most people falsely remember the word sweet as being on the first list and the word angry as being on the second list. The words aren’t there, but they are strongly suggested by the words that are on the list. Memory is associative, and thinking about one thing can get you thinking related thoughts. Remembering the words candy and honey and sugar and others that are associated with sweetness bring that word sweet to mind so strongly that it seems like part of the original list.
In workshops, participants swear “sweet” and “angry” are on the original lists and that the lists have somehow been switched.
How did you do?
Michael Michalko is a creativity expert and author of the highly-acclaimed best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Genius), and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.