How Keen Is Your ObservationWhich light is on top of the traffic light? Is it the Red or the Green? Your first thought, probably is that this is an easy ques- tion to answer. However, put yourself in this position—you are on one of the current quiz shows that pays a lot of money for correct answers. You must answer this question correctly to win the top prize.
Now then, which light is on top, the Red or the Green? if you have been able to picture yourself in the above posi- tion, you are probably hesitating now, because you’re not really sure which light is on top, are you? If you are sure, then you’re one of the minority who has observed what most people only see. There is a world of difference be- tween seeing and observing; proven, of course, by the fact that most of the people to whom I put the above question, either give the wrong answer or are not sure. This, even though they see the traffic lights countless times every day! By the way, Red is always on top of the traffic light, Green is always on the bottom. If there is a third color, it is usually Yellow, for caution, and that one is always in the center. If you were sure that Red was the correct answer, let me see if I can’t puncture your pride a bit with another ob- servation test. 1314 How Keen Is Your Observation? Don’t look at your wrist watch! Don’t look at your wrist watch, and answer this question:—Is the number six on your watch dial, the Arabic #6, or is it the Roman Numeral VI? Think this over for a moment, before you look at your watch. Decide on your answer as if it were really important that you answer correctly.
You’re on that quiz show again, and there’s a lot of money at stake. All right, have you decided on your answer? Now, look at your watch and see if you were right. Were you? Or were you wrong in either case, because your watch doesn’t have a six at all!? The small dial that ticks off the seconds usually occupies that space on most modern watches. Did you answer this question correctly? Whether you did or did not, you had to look at your watch to check. Can you tell now, the exact time on your watch? Probably not, and you just looked at it a second ago! Again, you saw, but you didn’t observe. Try this on your friends. Although people see their watches innumerable times every day, few of them can tell you about the numeral six. Here’s another one to try on your friends; but you’d bet- ter see if you can answer it first.
If you are a cigarette smoker, you have seen a blue tax stamp on your pack of cigarettes each time you take it out to remove a cigarette. On this tax stamp is the picture of a man, and his name is printed under the picture. For the top prize on our imaginary quiz show, name this man! I guess you’ll have to leave the quiz show with only the consolation prize. I say this so definitely because only about two or three of the many people I’ve tested, have answered this one correctly. The man pictured on the reve- nue stamp is De Witt Clinton! Check it. I don’t want to be sneaky, but if you’ve just looked at the stamp and at the picture of De Witt Clinton, you must How Keen Is Your Observation? 15have seen what Clinton was doing with his left hand. You also saw, or probably saw, four letters, two on the upper left and two on the upper right of the stamp. I say that you saw these things, I don’t think you observed them.
If you did, you should be able to tell yourself right now, what De Witt Clinton is doing with his left hand, and also name the four letters. Had to look again, didn’t you? Now you’ve observed that his left hand is at Clinton’s temple, as if he were thinking, and the letters are, U.S.I.R. for United States Internal Revenue.
Don’t feel too badly if you couldn’t answer any of these questions; as I said before, most people can’t. You may recall a motion picture a few years ago which starred Ron- ald Colman, Celeste Holm and Art Linkletter. The picture was “Champagne for Caesar,” and it was about a man who couldn’t be stumped with any question on a quiz show. The finale of the film was the last question of the quiz, which was worth some millions of dollars. To earn these millions, Ronald Colman was asked to give his own social security number. Of course, he didn’t know it! This was amusing and interesting, to me, anyway, since it struck home.
It proves, doesn’t it, that people see but do not ob- serve? Incidentally, do you know your social security num- ber? Although the systems and methods contained in this book make you observe automatically, you will find some interesting observation exercises in a later chapter. The sys- tem will also make you use your imagination with more facility than ever before. I’ve taken the time and space to talk about observation because it is one of the things important to training your memory. The other, and more important thing, is associa- tion. We cannot possibly remember anything that we