May 22, 2022 5:30 am

The strange case of the bank robber who thought he was invisible for pouring lemon juice on himself

in the head of McArthur Wheeler, a 44-year-old man, nothing could go wrong. After months of planning, the robbery of two banks from the city of Pittsburgh, in U.S, it would be practically one more procedure that morning of April 19, 1995.

Before leaving home, he had already completed the entire ritual: dark clothes, gun on his belt and a good dose of lemon juice on his face.

The reasons behind her citrus bath were “simple” under her logic: since the lemon liquid was colorless, applying it to your face would make it invisible. There was no need for a mask or anything like that.

Until the uniformed men arrived at his home, M. Wheeler’s was an unusual story of “criminal success”iStock

Surprisingly, in a matter of minutes, Wheeler had already robbed both banks and left safely.. The feeling of success that filled him made him feel like a true genius.

The problem occurred an hour later when two policemen came to his house with the video from the security camera from one of the places where his face was clearly visible. “But if I put the juice!”, He cried before the queen test of the authorities.

The sound of the handcuffs closing his hands was the only reasonable response he received. There was no other conclusion: his master plan had failed.

Anyone who has spent time in the science lab at school must have done the lemon “invisible ink” experiment. And if it was not the case, here we remember it.

A toothpick, a lemon, a glass, a blank sheet of paper and a candle were enough. You had to squeeze the lemon into a glass, take the toothpick, spread the juice on it and start “writing” with citric acid on the blank page.

The pyrolysis of citric acid is what allows us to discover that sensation of "invisibility" lemon juice on white sheets
The pyrolysis of citric acid is what allows you to discover that sensation of “invisibility” of lemon juice on blank sheetsiStock

Then he would take the blank page and walk a few inches from the lit candle.

Due to the effect of the heat, the areas smeared with juice began to break down, giving the sensation that the message was “revealed”. in carbon residues. In the end, after having walked all the “letter” through the fire, legibility was a reality.

Well, in the case of the frustrated thief, surely that experiment was a source of inspiration. However, according to some sources, the adult, days before the robbery, I had done a simulation so as not to fail in the attempt. And, as he believed to verify, everything would go perfectly.

From what some local media have reported, Wheeler had done the “invisibility test” with the lemon in a way as particular as its purpose.

One morning, one similar to the one in which he carried out the failed robbery, he smeared his face with the juice. Then, to “prove” that no one could see it, tried to take an “old fashioned” selfie: Turning the camera lens towards your face.

Amid the burning in his eyes from the acid, he put the shutter to work. When he went to see the result, his face did not appear on camera. ‘I did it!’ must have been the enthusiastic thought.

On the contrary, there was only one reality: his face did not appear on the camera, but not because of what he believed, but because he had focused elsewhere. That was his “invisibility”.

This unique anecdote, which at the time did not go beyond a review note in the American press, was used by psychologists David Dunning y Justin Kruger to investigate this striking cognitive bias. It is currently known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Psychologists have seen an exemplary case of severe cognitive distortion in what happened to the thief Wheeler
Psychologists have seen an exemplary case of severe cognitive distortion in what happened to the thief WheeleriStock

Broadly speaking, the logic of bias moves in a paradox: people with little command of a subject overestimate their ability (at the level of McArthur Wheeler in the most exaggerated cases) and they feel like “geniuses”.

Those who actually have extensive skill come to underestimate their knowledge and feel “incapable” even though their mastery is almost complete.

Currently, at a time when most social network users feel they are experts on all kinds of topics, it seems that cognitive bias has case examples in the millions.

The peculiar thing is that, as in the case of the singular thief, reality remains “invisible” before their eyes… even if they bathe in lemon juice.

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.