The Psychology of The Two Envelope Problem


This article concerns the psychology of the paradoxical Two Envelope Problem. The goal is to find instructive variants of the envelope switching problem that are capable of clear-cut resolution, while still retaining paradoxical features. By relocating the original problem into different contexts involving commutes and playing cards the reader is presented with a succession of resolved paradoxes that reduce the confusion arising from the parent paradox. The goal is to reduce confusion by understanding how we sometimes misread mathematical statements; or, to completely avoid confusion, either by reforming language, or adopting an unambiguous notation for switching problems. This article also suggests that an illusion close in character to the figure/ground illusion hampers our understanding of switching problems in general and helps account for the intense confusion that switching problems sometimes generate.

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