Fooling The Machine

By Dave Gershgorn In the early 1900s, Wilhelm von Osten, a German horse trainer and mathematician, told the world that his horse could do math. For years, Von Osten traveled Germany giving demonstrations of this phenomenon. He would ask his horse, Clever Hans, to compute simple equations. In response, Hans would tap his hoof for the correct answer. Two plus two? Four taps. But scientists did not believe Hans was as clever as Von Osten claimed. An extensive study, coined the Hans Commission, was conducted by psychologist Carl Stumpf. He found that Clever Hans wasn’t solving equations, but responding to visual cues. Hans would tap up to the correct number, which was usually when his trainer and the crowd broke out in cheers. And then he would stop. When he…


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