How the “Red Hammer Trick” is performed (and why it works)

The “Red Hammer Trick” is an amazing mental test that will work for most of the people you try it with. I’ll explain how to do it and some of the psychological principles behind this mental illusion.

Here’s how the trick works:

For the “Red Hammer Trick”, people are asked to solve some math tasks and name any tool and color they can think of right after. Most of them will choose a “red hammer” as their answer.

I’ll show you how to do the test in case you want to try it with some other people, and explain why it works and most of us tend to choose the “red hammer”.

How to do the “Red Hammer Test” (all questions)

If you want to try this trick with your friends or family, here’s how you do it. The calculations don’t have to be the same, just make sure to ask your viewers to solve some easy math problems.

None of the answers have to be written down or remembered, it’s just important to solve them mentally.

Answer all of these questions as fast as possible:

What is…

12 + 48 = ?

38 + 16 = ?

115 + 25 = ?

68 + 32 = ?

63 + 4 = ?

2 + 8 = ?

Almost done, just one more task:

62 + 12 = ?

Now, very quickly, think of a tool and a color and name them out loud! Just say the first words that come to your mind.

Most people will say that their choice for the tool is the hammer and their chosen color is red.

Some people claim that the trick works 98% of the time, but in my opinion, this number is just made up or based on a very small test group. Nonetheless, this mind trick still works pretty often and most of your friends and family will probably end up choosing the red hammer as well.

By the way: all of the math tasks don’t matter all, they are just there to shift the center of attention away from the actual question at the end.

Why does the “Red Hammer Trick” work for so many peope?

If you’ve done the test yourself and actually chose the red hammer, you obviously want to know why it worked, right?

It’s based on a psychological principle and some luck as well, but it still works for most people. All of the pieces of the “Red Hammer Test” are there for a reason.

One more thing, before I get to the explanation: these are just my own thoughts and opinions, I’m not an expert by any means, I just like magic and mind tricks. But I’ve done some research and this is what I’ve come up with.

Why the math tasks are so important for this trick

What’s crucial about this trick are the calculations at the beginning. They don’t do anything mathematically, they are just there to shift your focus away from the actual question you are asked in the end.

Quick tip
The only reason why the math tasks are in this trick is to get a more subconscious answer.

This leads to a more subconscious decision, making the answer way more predictable than without the math tasks.

If you were to ask someone to name the first tool they think of without context, some will pick a hammer, but many others will probably choose something else.

Here’s why most people choose the color red

There are so many different colors, and you could’ve chosen anyone. But if you’ve tried the trick yourself or with other people, you’ll quickly realize that most of them chose the color red.

This might sound surprising at first since the most popular color is blue (by far). Why wouldn’t people pick the color blue in the “Red Hammer Test”, even though over 35% name blue as their favorite color? (Source)

Colors have different meanings, and we connect them with different things. You do it as well, whether or not you’ve realized it yet. This is why many financial and health institutions chose blue and green as their primary colors – this makes us trust them more.

I don’t want to dive too deep into this whole color thing, but here’s the deal with red:

Red is highly visible and catches our attention. That’s why fire trucks and fire engines are usually colored red, and red lights typically mean danger or emergency.

When you do the test, it’s not an emergency, but the sentence at the end asks you to think of a tool and a color as fast as possible. This means you have to make up your mind almost instantly, and the color red is very aggressive, sometimes even associated with danger, willpower, and stress. (Source)

Don’t get me wrong: you are never able to predict someone’s mind, but you can certainly change the factors that influence people. The reason why most people choose the color red is that they are under pressure, and have to make a decision quickly.

The last piece of the puzzle: the hammer

Finally, the tool. While you could’ve named a screwdriver, spanner, or any other tool, a hammer is just of one the most common and well-known tools that exist.

If you were to ask a group of people to name a few different tools, a hammer would be on that list almost every single time. But it probably wouldn’t be the first tool they name every single time, so why does it work for the test?

Just like with the color, people have to choose the tool as fast as possible, which means they have to “hammer out” their answer (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist).

There’s a reason why it’s called to “hammer sth out”, besides the bad jokes you can make with it. We subconsciously think of it as a tool that gets things done. And if someone is under pressure and has to name a tool, it’s just more likely that he’ll choose a hammer.

My final thoughts on the “Red Hammer Trick”

I really like this trick, because it shows how people think and that their thoughts can be influenced, more than many of us (including myself) expected.

The only downside is that you can only experience the trick once, and as soon as you read the title or hear the name of it (“red hammer”), well – you know, the trick is over. But for those who can actually do the trick without knowing it, it’s amazing.

I can only encourage you to try it with your friends or family because this whole effect is based on an actual mental principle.

Many other mind-reading illusions you see are based on tricks, but the “Red Hammer Test” is different.

By the way, you can find quite some mental and mind-reading effects on my website, here are two more posts to get you started:

Mind reading number trick using math: How you can guess a spectator’s number (works every single time)

And one more, probably the easiest mind reading trick you can do:

How to read someone’s mind with just five cards (I promise, it’s the easiest mental trick you can find out there).

Image source (header image):