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P-O-T-S Pattern Trick

Students discover how auditory illusions are based on confounding assumptions and patterns.

After repeating P-O-T-S several times, most people will say "Stop" because their brains have been "primed" by the letters P-O-T-S.

The human brain is so good at finding patterns that it recognizes POTS as being the reverse spelling of STOP. The brain relates it to our behaviour at a traffic light, all before our conscious mind can catch up.


  • Understand that auditory information is processed in the brain.


  • No materials necessary (other than student’s voices).

Key Questions

  • If you know the answer to what you do at a green light, why do you think you answered the question incorrectly?

What To Do

  1. Ask the class to spell the word “POTS” along with you. This works best as a call and response:Instructor: P-O-T-S Class: P-O-T-S
    Instructor: P-O-T-S Class: P-O-T-S
    (repeat 5/6 times)
  2. Immediately ask the class: “What do you do at a green light?”


  • Create your own auditory illusion and test it on other students or your family.