The Speaking Horse

In the early 1900s, a horse called “Clever Hans” became a German celebrity for being able to understand the German language and do math.

A horse? Here’s how

When asked “Hans, what is four times three?”. It would tap its hoof twelve times. When shown a written message asking, “What is twenty minus eleven?”. It would tap its hoof nine times.

The Secret? In 1907 Psychologist Oskar Pfungst began an investigation that revealed the truth behind Clever Hans.

Hans figured out the answer by carefully observing the body language and facial expressions of onlookers. He knew from past experiences that the humans expected him to tap his hoof a given number of times and closely observed how tense the humans were.

The closer he was to the correct number, the humans became more and more tense. When he got it right, the tension reached its peak and soon turned into amazement or laughter.

Clever Hans had won. 🎠

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