We’ve all lost a sock or two in the laundry, but author Dan Ariely points out in an article on the Wall Street Journal that missing socks aren’t always missing. Sometimes, it’s just a trick of the brain.
Picture: Simon Davies/Flickr
When we believe a sock goes missing, we immediately chalk it up to some supernatural force eating our laundry. While that’s certainly the case sometimes, Ariely points out that sometimes we’re just not recognising what’s really going on:
We also found one mechanism that can explain this mystery — the overcounting of missing socks. You have many socks, and if you see one of them and don’t immediately find its partner, you say, “Oh! A sock has been lost!” You remember that a sock is missing, but you do not exactly recall its type or colour.
Later on, you see the matching sock, but you don’t remember that it forms a pair with the first sock, and you say to yourself (again): “Another sock is missing. Where is its partner? I can’t believe so many socks go missing.”
So we often count as lost each sock in a pair — even though neither is really lost.
Missing Socks Are No Mystery [Wall Street Journal]