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Most people assume that 60 percent to 90 percent of the group given the clue would solve the puzzle easily. What’s more, in statistical terms, this 5 percent improvement over the subjects of Guilford’s original study is insignificant.

In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error.

Let’s look a little more closely at these surprising results.

Solving this problem requires people to literally think outside the box.

He challenged research subjects to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page.

Today many people are familiar with this puzzle and its solution.

In other words, the “trick” was revealed in advance.

Only 20 percent managed to break out of the illusory confinement and continue their lines in the white space surrounding the dots.

No one, that is, before two different research teams—Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg—ran another experiment using the same puzzle but a different research procedure.

Both teams followed the same protocol of dividing participants into two groups.

The first group was given the same instructions as the participants in Guilford’s experiment.

The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array.

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