The hobbits and orcs problem

There are several solution paths for the hobbits and orcs problem1. The following table shows one of them (b = boat, H = hobbit, O = orc):

Step Starting bank Journey End bank
start bHHHOOO
1 bHHOO bHO →
2 bHHOO ← bH O
3 bHHH bOO → O
4 bHHH ← bO OO
5 bHO bHH → OO
6 bHO ← bHO HO
7 bOO bHH → HO
8 bOO ← bO HHH
9 bO bOO → HHH
10 bO ← bH HHOO
11 bHO → HHOO

There is a particular point in this solution path where people get into difficulties, and that is Step 6. At this point the action that needs to be taken is to move one creature of each type back to the first side of the river. This seems to be decreasing the similarity between current state and goal state, hence conflicts with the difference reduction heuristic. Consequently, about a third of participants prefer to go back to Step 52.

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