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Think of the number six. Now - name a vegetable!

It is claimed that people, when asked for a random vegetable, will typically pick the same one.

(Spoiler below. Once you have guessed, click or hover over the box below.)

carrot

Claim examples:

  • This online exercise claims 98% do, when primed with the word "six".
  • WikiHow claims 90% carrot, 2% broccoli as second choice, and then, confusingly, 8% lettuce as third - again when primed with "six".
  • This redditor says, anecdotally, 90%, when prepared with random arithmetic questions.
  • This blogger got 7 out of 7 carrots, after using an arithmetic question.
  • This contributor to ScienceChatForum did a controlled experiment to show neither the "six" priming nor arithmetic questions were necessary, with a 92% of 60 runs answering carrot.
  • These magic trick instructions claim people normally choose carrot, and don't use arithmetic nor make a claim about frequency.

Is this phenomenon true? If so, what is the scientific explanation?

Disclosure: It worked for me. I'm among the 98% majority according to the first site.

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  • 1
    I have heard this fact before, and used it in childish magic tricks. The priming with "six" is not required. It didn't work with me here, because I knew what was expected of me, and was sure to choose another.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 11, 2012 at 11:22
  • 3
    @Green Noob - Agreed... Corrected. I suspect a Kiki/Bouba-effect. "Six" has a sharp sound.
    – Oliver_C
    Feb 11, 2012 at 11:34
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    I wish you'd mentioned six in the title, I immediately thought of "asparagus". Now I'll never know what I'd have thought of if I'd had that primer :(
    – Jivlain
    Feb 11, 2012 at 15:40
  • 1
    if it were true, it would hardly be random :)
    – jwenting
    Feb 12, 2012 at 7:42
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    @Sklivvz I disagree. For a question like this, I think it would be fair to allow users to have an unbiased shot at the test so that they could verify the effect (if any) by themselves.
    – Green Noob
    Feb 12, 2012 at 15:47

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