My son’s ELP (extended learning program) homework this evening was about solving problems where the answer is counterintuitive. One of the examples is the “Monty Hall problem.” You’re a contestant on a game show, and you choose one of three closed doors, hoping you picked the one with the prize. The game show host then opens one of the other two doors to show that it does not have the prize, and then gives you the chance to change your choice to the third, still unopened door. Do you stick with your first choice or switch?
Even though I have seen this question before, it was years ago, and I found myself reluctant to accept the answer that it is always to your advantage to switch. I read through several online discussions of the problem before it more or less made sense to me. The most interesting explanation I found is in this article, which shows that pigeons do far better than humans at solving this sort of problem.
The reason for that, the article explains, is that humans approach the problem by trying to use rules of thumb they have learned. And none of those rules of thumb fit this problem. Pigeons, on the other hand, observe what works each time, and quickly discover that switching from their initial choice works more often.