Can You Solve This Famous Psychological Riddle?

This famous psychological riddle has been around for some time but yet still baffles many.

Simply read the following passage and answer what you think is wrong with the passage.

A full explanation of the riddle is offered below so be sure to read on!

Can You Solve This Famous Psychological Riddle?

A boy and his father have been exposed to a disease. Sadly, the father rapidly develops a tumour and dies. The boy survives, but desperately needs an operation and is rushed to hospital. A surgeon is called. Upon entering the room and seeing the patient, the surgeon exclaims, ‘Oh no! I can’t do the operation. That’s my son!’

If you already know the answer then scroll down for some great book recommendations with tougher riddles.

Otherwise just think about and explain what is wrong with passage.

Scroll down for the answer (and check out the great riddle book recommendations).

If you like psychological riddles then check out some great riddle books here:

Interactive riddles100 Interactive Riddles and Brain Teasers: The Best Short Riddles and Brainteasers With Clues for Stretching and Entertaining your Mind

Released in Feb 2016 this interactive riddles and brain teasers book is a great innovative puzzle book.

Great to play through alone, with friends or family.

Described as ‘too difficult’ for beginners, will you be able to figure out these interactive riddles?

Click here to check price


100 best riddlesRiddles: The 100 Best “What Am I?” Riddles Ever Made: Volume 1 (Riddles, Brain Teasers and Puzzles)

If you’re ready to give your brain a full workout then the 100 best ‘What Am I?’ riddles is for you!

Read through the cryptic clues to uncover what you are.

With some classics and new riddles exercise for the brain is assured with this book.

Click here to check price


riddles and brain teasersOf Course!: The Greatest Collection of Riddles & Brain Teasers For Expanding Your Mind

Ready to ‘expand your mind’? I’m not sure this book quite lives up to that promise but it certainly has some great riddles.

Do you like riddles? Do you like brain teasers? Do you like puzzles? Are you a problem solver? Are you creative? Do you think outside the box?

Click here to read more about this book


ANSWER: Of course, as just over half of those who responded to the ‘riddle’ said, nothing is in fact wrong with the passage; the surgeon is the boys mother.

And around half is surprisingly good going, although we can’t ignore the possibility of googlers. In properly ran versions of this experiment only around 15% correctly answer that the mum is the surgeon.

This psychological riddle has been around since the 1970s and was probably first targeted to examine gender biases or dare I say gender inequality.

But psychologists increasingly think it is actually more interesting than this, with a couple of alternative explanations:

Firstly: we are simply making use of schemas that shortcut our way through the world, so for example when we were young we created a record of what surgeons are

So words in that schema are likely to be doctor, hospital and man.

Doctor as we might think of them as like a doctor, hospital because thats probably where they work and man because the vast majority of surgeons are men (around 91%) although when we created the schema this was even higher.

We know from phobias that schemas can be extremely enduring and difficult to change.

But also that they are needed for everyday life, getting through a day figuring everything out logically would cause you somewhat of a headache.

Secondly: wrong answers could be due to the priming effect

In the first few words we are told of the boy and his father, his father is then soon mentioned again. So it could be that we are thinking about his father so much that we entirely miss the point.

So don’t feel bad if you didn’t get the right answer, very few actually do.

If you enjoyed this riddle then check out our great smart riddles and intelligent riddles.