How I learned that a zebra is not a stripy horse

Photo by Ron Dauphin on Unsplash
Photo by Ron Dauphin on Unsplash
Fig. 1: A herd of definitely-not-stripy-horses at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. (Photo: Ron Dauphin via Unsplash)

Quick: how many animals can you name in a minute?


OK, now think about how many of those animals have you seen, in real life, in the past year. Not many, right?

Most of us live in a world devoid of wild animals, apart from maybe a few species like squirrels or raccoons. This means that we have few opportunities to compare our mental map — the idea of an animal that we carry around in our heads — against the real thing. And that means that sometimes, those mental maps can be off to a surprising degree.

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