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# Clever Hans

Overview

Clever Hans is a horse who is the subject of research for a German High School Math teacher. Osten's research helped the discovery of something different than what he expected. His intentions to show the intellect of animals led to the discovery of unconscious cueing. The clever hans story teaches that-

• Our subconscious intent impacts our energy even when we do not know about it.

• Researchers might influence their subjects to act in a way that fits their intentions more.

## Clever Hans Story

'Clever Hans' is a story that revolves around Clever Hans horse and Wilhelm Von Osten, a German high school maths teacher. He thought that people often underestimated how intelligent animals could be or were. He was a man of science and set out to test his hypothesis by teaching mathematics to a horse. Hans, the horse in question, or Osten's subject in his experiment, quickly showed progress.

Clever Hans

## Clever Hans Story

Hans could perform simple mathematical operations and even simple fractions and square root-related problems. He would convey his answer to Osten by tapping his hoof several times. By 1891, Osten began touring Germany, showing off Hans' skills to large crowds. By now, he could ask Hans questions orally, and he would ask him other logical questions with numerical answers, and Hans would come through each time.

Osten demonstrated how Hans could answer simple questions by selecting the correct option. He did make occasional mistakes, but about ninety per cent of the time, Hans was right. His mathematical skills were those of the average fourteen-year-old.

When people began to question the Clever Hans horse's intelligence and the legibility of Osten's conclusions, Von Osten happily agreed to allow Germany's board of education to conduct an independent investigation. In 1904, after conducting various tests, the Hans Commission, consisting of two zoologists, a psychologist, a horse trainer, several schoolteachers and a circus manager, concluded that it was true, the horse's talents were genuine, as far as they could figure.

However, the Commission then passed the investigation to a young psychologist named Oskar Pfungst. Pfungst began testing Hans. He observed that Hans performed well when questioned under the conditions he was used to. But when the questioner stood farther away than normal, Hans began to make mistakes. And if it so happened that the questioner did not know the answer to a question or did not reveal it to him, Hans' accuracy plummeted to nearly zero. Pfungst came up with the hypothesis that Hans' intelligence relied on him having an unobstructed view of a person who knew the correct answer to the question asked.

After this, Pfungst began watching the questionnaires while continuing to conduct tests on the horse. He noticed that as Hans tapped his hoof in response to a question, their breathing, posture, expression, etc., showed subtle signs of increasing tension. This tension seemed to disappear when Hans made the correct tap. Innocently and without realising they were doing so, Pfungst concluded that the questionnaires gave Hans cues as to when to stop tapping by their behaviour while he was tapping out his answer.

This led to the discovery of unconscious cueing.

Pfungst had discovered how researchers' subtle, unintentional and seemingly unnoticed signals influenced their subjects. It is now recognized in research involving not only human subjects but animals as well.

Unconscious cues introduce bias into experiments, leading to subjects giving answers that seem right to the researchers.

Blinding and double-blinding trials are one response. For example, in a blind drug trial of a new drug involving two groups- the first group of participants receives the drug while the second group receives a placebo. It is not revealed to the subjects which group they are a part of. However, the doctor may still give subtle, unconscious cues, which may give away information about the drug the subject has been given. It may include behaviour like checking participants' reactions in the active group a little more carefully or being more willing to attribute those in the inactive group to something other than the drug.

There is a way to avoid unconscious cues from even slightly disrupting the results of an experiment. This can be done by conducting double-blind experiments. In such experiments, neither the researcher nor the subjects know which group a participant is in. This keeps the participant or subject and the researcher in the dark, thus successfully preventing them from sending unconscious cues.

## Moral of the Story

The moral of the story, Clever Hans' story is: “ that the results of your efforts might not always be the way you want them to be.”

## Summary

The Clever Hans story is about Hans who could answer any maths question. But when Pfungst conducted a research on Hans, he realised that Hans was answering questions based on his subconscious mind. It leads Pfungst to realise that our subconscious intent impacts our actions and therefore has its consequences.

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## FAQs on Clever Hans

1. What research was Von Osten doing?

Von Osten was researching to prove that the animals possess an intellect by training a horse called Hans to perform mathematical tricks on his own.

2. What did Pfungst discover?

Pfungst discovered that researchers tend to unconsciously cue their subjects, which tampers the real result to a diluted version of what they needed for their report.

3. What solution is there to unconscious cueing?

Double blinding experiments are one way to prevent unconscious cueing. When the researchers and subjects do not know which is the active subject and which is a control, the results will be genuine.

4. What does the Clever Hans story summary teach you?

The Clever Hans story summary teaches one’s subconscious mind is so strong that it controls the person’s behaviour.

Overview

Clever Hans is a horse who is the subject of research for a German High School Math teacher. Osten's research helped the discovery of something different than what he expected. His intentions to show the intellect of animals led to the discovery of unconscious cueing. The clever hans story teaches that-

• Our subconscious intent impacts our energy even when we do not know about it.

• Researchers might influence their subjects to act in a way that fits their intentions more.