How So Many Profiles Became Giraffes… That Stupid Giraffe Riddle

Giraffe Riddle

So there’s a new ‘viral’ post that been doing its rounds across social media, Facebook in particular, about a riddle and a giraffe. I’m not going into the debate of what the actual answer SHOULD be, but to begin things here is the giraffe riddle:

I have had to change my profile picture to a giraffe. I tried to answer a riddle and got it wrong! Try the giraffe challenge!! The deal is I give you a riddle, you get it right, you get to keep your profile picture, get it wrong and you change your profile picture to a giraffe for the next 3 days!!!

MESSAGE ME ONLY SO YOU DON’T GIVE OUT THE ANSWER!!!

Here is the riddle: it’s 3am, the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors!! It’s your parents and they are here for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese.

What is the first thing you open? Remember, only message me the answer – if you get it right I’ll post your name here, if not, I’ll message you and you’ll have to change your profile picture!

[SPOILERS: IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWER DON’T READ BELOW THIS LINE]

So there is the ‘trick’ answer which isn’t actually correct and there’s the supposed  ‘real’ answer.

Trick = ‘door’
Real = ‘eyes’

So here are my thoughts on why this post has been so viral.

And for the record: I answered ‘door’

1) 2/3 Rules of Epidemics

If you have read Malcom Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point‘ (I highly recommend this book) then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The 2 rules which this post complies with are:

i. The Stickiness Factor

  • Which means that content of a message matters, especially how ‘memorable’ it is to spur people into action.
  • This includes structure, presentation and amount of information provided
  • The riddle starts off with a ‘hook’ to get those reading it curious, and then openly encourages sharing. It is straight to the point and wastes no time in introduction or explanation.
  • The riddle also ‘sets you up’ in a pattern of thinking which has consequences

ii. The Power of Context

  • Human beings are extremely sensitive to context
  • As the Gladwell writes, ‘Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur’ (elaboration in point 2)
  • The combination of message (riddle with an actionable outcome) and medium (social media where ease of sharing is emphasised) made this riddle extremely viral

2) Human behaviour and cognition

i. Curiosity and Sense of Self Worth

As humans we are inherently curious about our surroundings. We especially enjoy the feeling right at the moment of solving a problem, otherwise known as the ‘Aha moment‘. We want to think of ourselves as intelligent individuals and this riddle sets us up to create this moment of increased self worth as we find self-validation on intelligence. The riddle sits on a fine line, where it’s not particular difficult, but the answer is not totally spelt out to you either. Or so it wants you to think.

Once we are told the ‘correct’ answer, this is meant to bring down our ego and thus comes part two of the psychological games with ‘attribution bias‘. We go along the following line of thinking:

‘It’s not that I didn’t get the correct answer (which would be an indicator of my intelligence – internal factor), it’s because the question itself was flawed (an external factor)’.

ii. Finding a Common Ground

However, because of the light-hearted nature of the ‘challenge’ we are able to go ahead and accept our ‘punishment’ of changing our profile picture to a giraffe. It’s kind of funny and also, it provides us with a little bit of attention (which nearly all of us enjoy). It also gives us a chance to bond as we seek out others who are in the same ‘predicament’ as ourselves, as an experience is ‘shared’. We don’t need to feel stupid alone, we can feel stupid together (Yay! /sarcasm) and you play an obvious hand in the ‘conversion’ of these new giraffes.

3) Ease of sharing and engagement

Due to the nature of social media such as Facebook, these sort of posts are made EXTREMELY easy to share. Copy –> Paste –> Share. The effort required is minimal but the engagement is high as likes pile up, comments are made on the post and tagging friends who failed will continually push the post up on the newsfeeds  of your friends. This means a longer half life compared to other Facebook updates and more self validation of existance. Furthermore, you can see your contact list turn into an army of giraffes which you can be proud of (as you were responsible for converting them).

So did you get tricked?