Bored on a tram

Yesterday I was on a tram and heard a kid trying very hard to annoy his parents. (At least, I assume they were his parents.) He kept singing: “I’m… sooooooo…bored!” It worked. They got annoyed. They both started telling him off in quiet, grumbly voices that undercut the singing.

After a while, presumably as an experiment, he changed the words to the song to: “I’m sooooooo…happy!

His parents didn’t react to the change in words. They both just carried on talking non-stop in low voices about how he was going to be in trouble, how he could stop that nonsense right now, etc, etc.

Hypothesis 1: his parents spotted the lyric change, spotted that he was testing them for a reaction, realised that he was still trying very hard to be irritating despite the superficial change in lyrical subject matter and decided to respond to the intent rather than to the actual words.

Hypothesis 2: they didn’t actually notice the lyric change.

I’ve written about this before: when you think someone has seen through your attempt to deceive and you credit them with insight for ignoring it, but in fact they never even spotted your attempt to deceive in the first place. The example I originally gave was of a mother trying to trick a child, but I actually think it’s way more common the other way round. Because when you’re a kid, even after you’ve got out of the phase of thinking your parents are omniscient, you still think they’re way more observant and interested in the minor things you do/say than they really are.

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