We've carefully covered these words so you can only see part of each letter. But try to read them anyway. What do you think they say?

1. Now click on the button to remove the black bar and check your answer. Chances are you thought you had enough information to read this message. But if you look at the answer, you'll find out the answer you came up with wasn't the only one possible.  
2. You only see part of each letter. Your brain compares this part to its memory of letters and tries to figure out what the covered up part might look like. Your brain looks for a pattern. What word could have all these letters? Then your brain fills in the missing pieces. Because your brain tries to make sense of the word, it completes the letters to produce familiar words.  
3. After you check the answer, you might say, "But that doesn't make sense!" You're right. It's just a bunch of letters. Your brain read this collection of letters as "JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS" because that made sense.
Here's a way to fool your friends with the same trick we just used to fool you.


1. If you have a computer or a typewriter, you can make your own confusing messages. Type out the alphabet, using all capital letters.

2. Use a piece of paper to cover up the bottom half of the alphabet. Which letters or numbers look like other letters or numbers when they are partly covered?

If you cover up the bottom half,
C looks like G
E looks like F
H looks like U
I looks like J or L
R looks like P or B
O looks like Q
X looks like Y

3. Now take the letters in your name. See if you can make a collection of letters that look like your name when the bottom half is covered. Type those letters, then cover up the bottom half. Ask people if they can read the words—and see how many people you can fool.


This brain-bending puzzle comes from the Exploratorium's Brain Explorer ,
a book available for purchase through our online store .

©2000 The Exploratorium