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Copyright © 1997, Sivasailam Thiagarajan. All rights reserved.

Here's a quick game that demonstrates how mindlessly we go through life, paying scant attention to everyday objects.

The game described below uses a dollar bill. You can play the game with any two-sided object that can be conveniently held in your hands. This object should have approximately equal amounts of information on both sides: You cannot use a picture postcard because one side contains a skimpy amount of information compared to the other. However, you can use two picture postcards pasted to each other. You can also use a credit card, a quarter, a double-sided brochure, a playing card (with a picture on its back), a page from a menu, or a canceled check.

You can also use the game to train people about key features of the object. Example: training bank tellers to recognize the features of a 100-dollar bill so that they can recognize counterfeits.

Here's the flow of the game:

  1. Ask each participant to find a partner. If you have an odd number of participants, pair yourself with the unpopular individual who gets left out.
  2. Ask each pair to pull out a dollar bill. Have them carefully inspect both sides of the bill for 30 seconds.
  3. Ask one member of the pair to hold up the dollar bill by its narrower edges so that each player sees a different side. It is important that neither player can see the other side.
  4. Explain how the game is played: The players take turns to make statements about what they see on their side of the dollar bill. This statement could be true (example: The word one is spelled out six times) or false (example: The signature of the U. S. President appears on the dollar bill). The other player announces whether this statement is true or false.
  5. Encourage the players to make generic statements (example: The serial number of the bill begins with a letter) rather than a specific statement (example: The serial number of this bill begins with the letter G). Also encourage the players to make sentences that contain a single element (example: The dollar bill contains two signatures) instead of multiple elements (example: The dollar bill has two signatures on either side of the picture of Washington with the titles of the people under their signatures). In other words, we do not want any statements that are partially true and partially false.
  6. Explain the scoring system. If the second player's announcement is correct, neither player scores anything. However, if the second player's statement is incorrect, then the first player scores a point.
  7. Explain how the game ends. The player who reaches the total score of 5 points first wins the game.
  8. Let the game begin. After a few rounds, suggest that if the hands that are holding up the dollar bill are getting tired, the other player may take a turn to be the bill-holder (keeping the same sides of the bill facing the same players).
  9. To repeat the game, ask the players to turn the dollar bill around for the next round. Or, ask the players to use a $100 bill or some other convenient object.

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