4 Reasons why is the giraffe riddle so popular (psychological analysis)

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Why is everyone changing his profile picture to a giraffe ?

Few days ago i woke up to find many of my friends putting a picture of a giraffe instead of their profile pictures. When i asked what was going on i was told that putting this picture for 3 days is the punishment they received after failing to solve a riddle correctly.

For the first instance i was really confused because ,as a psychologist, i know that to do any action you need some kind of motivation. Had those put a picture to show that they answered the riddle correctly the whole thing would have made a lot of sense.

I understand that people can become motivated to show that they are smart but what on earth could motivate a person to put a picture that shows that he wasn't that smart??

When i asked this question on Facebook a friend replied : because its funny.
Because that friend didn't know a lot about psychology he didn't knew the fact that even funny activities are derived by deep psychological motives and personal needs.

In my article Why are some jokes funnier than others i explained how our psychological needs can motivate us to laugh at some jokes but prevent us from laughing at others.

So in the end some kind of force motivated those people to post a picture that show that they actually failed to solve the riddle.

why is the giraffe riddle so popular

When i searched more i discovered that to solve the riddle you needed to send a the answer to one of those who solved it incorrectly (its obvious because their profile picture is a giraffe). If your answer was wrong that person will ask you to change your profile picture to a giraffe.

Here are the factors that motivated people to respond to the punishment:

  • 1) The agreement was made first The first component that motivated people to accept the punishment is that they agreed to do it if they answered correctly. In other words, people knew that if they answered incorrectly they would be forced to put that picture and this was the first factor that made this joke popular. Had those people knew about the punishment after solving the riddle incorrectly many of them wouldn't have done it.
  • 2) Motivation & Integrity: For some people the motivation to prove that they are men of their words is much bigger than the motivation to appear smart. After all if someone answered the question incorrectly then didn't post the picture then his friend will start to think that he is not a man of his word. In other words, when someone puts the picture of a giraffe he is actually showing of his ability to keep his word even if the cost wasn't pleasant
  • 3) Social proof theory: I assume that in the beginning a small percentage of people actually applied the punishment but as more people put pictures of giraffes it became easier for new ones to admit that they failed to solve the riddle. In other words, the more giraffes appeared on Facebook the less the motivation to appear smart became and the more it was likley for the motivation to appear a man of your word to control your actions
  • 4) The fun component made it easier to take the action: The fun component wasn't the main reason this riddle was popular but it was the component that made the bitter action appear a little sweeter. People feel stressed when they believe they are doing something serious like supporting a cause but funny actions are always easier to perform as they put less load on the brain.

Why were some people so annoyed?

Some people were extremely annoyed of the ones who put the giraffe pictures that they started to verbally assault them. Those people are the arrogant ones who believe that they are smarter than everybody and that others are fools.

Arrogant people always look for ways to appear superior to others and put them down. Now seeing so many people with pictures of giraffes seemed like an amazing opportunity for those arrogant people to gain some self esteem by putting those ones down.

After all if those who put pictures of giraffes are annoying and stupid then they must be interesting and smart. At least this is how those arrogant people saw it.

And oh by the way, the answer is "The door" or "my eyes". Both were acceptable answers ;)

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