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Why Sansa is not as dumb as you think.

Game of Thrones and Visual Communication- Sansa Stark

[Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t read the books or seen the series, it is highly recommend that you do.  I haven’t read the books, and this is my personal opinion and observation of Sansa Stark from the Game of Thrones up to Season 3, Episode 9.]

We’ll first talk about the TV show, but we will tie this all up and talk about visual communications.
Skip the TV show bit and read about the Sally-Anne Test and Visual communication

Part 1: Game of Thrones and character of Sansa Stark. (Somewhat spoiler-y)

I must admit, I didn’t like Sansa Stark for a while. She struck me as a bratty pre-teen princess whose sole purpose in life is to marry a prince or a dashing knight.  Even her father says, “Daughters are harder than wars!” Her girlishness is accentuated through Arya, her younger tomboy sister, who rather play with swords than to do needlework. While Arya is one of the most popular character in the series, Sansa usually makes the list for least popular characters.

Sansa is often called dumb and naive by the Game of Thrones fans. She trusts characters who are most untrustworthy and distrusts characters who are interested in her well-being.

Sansa Stark Game of Thrones
I painted Sansa for fun. Graphite and Photoshop

Here’s the dialogue that struck me was in the 8th episode from season 3 titled, “Second Sons”, between her and Tyrion:


I just wanted to say…I know how you feel.


I doubt that very much my lord.


You’re right. I have no idea how you feel. You have no idea how I feel.

Sansa is right. No one knows how she feels, because deep down, we’re all alone in our mind. One can only assume what or how someone else is feeling. It’s very easy to assume that others know what we learn and know by casting our own experiences in life.

What the viewers of the show (including myself until recently) often forget, is that the viewers know far more about the characters than the characters know about each other.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at the Sally-Anne test.

Part 2: The Sally-Anne Test. Can you pass this?

The Sally-Anne test is used in developmental psychology for young children to study when the human mind begins to understand that other people have their own minds with different sets of knowledge from their own.

In this article we will talk briefly about the theory of mind. What we know is not automatically shared with others without explicit communication.

This is how the Sally-Anne test works:


Meet Sally. Meet Anne. Sally has a basket, and Anne has a box.


Sally gets a marble, and she puts it in her basket. Anne sees Sally put the marble in her basket.



Sally leaves her basket to go play outside.


Naughty Anne! She gets the marble from Sally’s basket and puts it her box.


Sally returns from outside and decides to play with her marble. Now comes the million dollar question:


If you said that Sally will look in her basket, then congratulations! You passed the test.

Most people understand that Sally doesn’t have access to the information Anne and the viewer know. How is Sally to know that Anne took the marble without having superpowers to see what is happening to her basket?

—and now back to GoT for a little bit. If you don’t want spoilers or don’t care, you can skip this part.—-

Lord Baelish is a scheming traitor who loves chaos. Tyrion is more than a drunk guy that hangs around harlots. The Hound can be sympathetic to the Starks. Lady Margery and Lady Olenna were scheming to win the north. The viewers know these things because we explicitly got to see these things in action.

For the most part, Sansa didn’t have access to these information. How is Sansa to know about Tyrion and Shae’s relationship when even Cersei couldn’t guess correctly? Sansa saw the Hound’s brother chop a horse’s head off, and he is fiercely loyal to evil Joffrey. Lord Baelish is her mother’s childhood friend. Lady Margaery is about the only person who acts kindly to Sansa who told her they should be friends.

I think the viewers forget to put themselves in Sansa’s shoes.  Expecting Sansa to understand how evil Lord Baelish is, that is similar to expecting Sally to know to look in Anne’s box for the marble.

—End of spoilers—–

Oftentimes I run across this similar problem: I use Photoshop and talk about human anatomy almost every day of my life. When I find that people don’t know as much about Photoshop or human anatomy, I get confused for a second– because some of the terminology and techniques are second nature to me. Me being somewhat of a Photoshop guru does not mean that every illustrator I speak to knows as much about Photoshop as I do.

As we communicate with others on a daily basis, we must remember that others have different mindsets from ours. No one has lived our lives except ourselves.

So the question is, what is one good way to make sure that everyone is up to the same page on a certain subject?

You guessed it, use pictures!

Near the beginning of the blog post, there’s a quick image of Sansa Stark as portrayed by a very talented actress named Sophie Turner.  Here it is again:

Sansa Stark Game of Thrones

Even if you haven’t seen the series or could not care less about it, by simply looking at it lets you know that Sansa is a young female human character with red hair. So, next time you are browsing or flipping channels, you sort of have an idea of what this particular character looks like. Using pictures do not just stop at popular TV shows, but could be used to communicate complex ideas and theories. You can see some of my illustrations that teach different concepts and facts here.

So what do YOU know that other people don’t? How would you be able to distinguish what you know versus what others know? How do you show, not tell your expertise to a group of individuals who are not familiar with your area of expertise? Please leave a comment in the section below. You’re also invited to discuss about Sansa’s character, but please keep the spoilers off from the comments. I’m looking forward to the season finale tonight!

Further reading:

Rolling Stone interview with actress Sophie Turner

“In Defense of Sansa Stark” from

Sally-Anne Test and the theory of Mind


  • Carlos
    Posted 06/12/2014 3:16 am 0Likes

    The only thing we can infere about you stating that Sansa is intelligent because she said she doubts other person knows how she feels, is not that sansa is in fact intelligent, but that you are in fact stupid. You even use a pseudo-psychological test which is defective in so many ways.

    Are you brain dead?

  • Carlos
    Posted 06/12/2014 3:20 am 0Likes

    In other words, considering a subject to be intelligent because of their use of simple cognitive skills does not make such subject intelligent, but the one who makes the statement, an imbecile.

    It’s not that Sansa is smart, it’s that you’re an idiot? Get it?

  • Bobs
    Posted 06/15/2014 2:19 pm 0Likes

    I have read the books but no longer follow GoT because I feel it’s a pastime for people who aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are; the other comments here illustrate that to perfection.

    My inclination is that Sansa will turn out to be very clever before the end. She has, after all, been surrounded by some of the most clever schemers around. She will turn into what Cersei should have been – if she wasn’t insane and a little bit more intelligent.

    And when she does, not one of these “clever” GoT fans will admit how obviously wrong they were or realize that Martin is secretly LHAO at them.

    • Carlos
      Posted 06/19/2014 12:03 am 0Likes

      You already read the books, yet you only say you ‘incline’ towards that she will turn out to be clever huh? I smell dumbass in here. You already know what is going to happen, you’re just butthurt about people diminishing your favorite character. Can someone be any more pathetic than that?

      Also, I got to love the way you claim to get excited about what you already know will happen, and specially, about how WRONG we were! Haha! Shameful.

      This is a novel, the point of novels is not to declare universal truths. Literature is for the reader to interpret, you dumb fuck! There’s no contest about guessing what will the future of characters will be, you idiot. Martin has as many objective knowledge of the truth of the phenomenology of mankind as anyone in this world. Literature’s value resides in the interpretations of the reader and not in the verosimilitude of their narrative. Anyway, this is too much for your peanut brain.

      And, by the way, you don’t judge a character based on what they turned out to be towards the end of the book, you idiot. You commit the exact same mistake this post is talking about. If at this point, four seasons of lenghth into the series, one has had enough signs of stupidity from that shithead, the character is to be judged as stupid, you dense little fuck! No reader who at this point has perceived her immaturity, superciliousness, as well as her idiotic unfounded faith leading to her pathetic stagnancy at critical moments, would ever consider her intelligent.

      In literarature characters are dynamic, they change. It doesn’t matter if she uses her relationship with Baelish to escalate into a critical position. What you need to understand is that she at this point is stupid, and whoever, either you or the poster of this dumb review or anyone else, think she is intelligent because of what she ends up with, you are the epitome of the weak-minded post-modern individual’s idiocy, and not to mention, a retarded fuck who falls into contradiction of what they just read and/or wrote.

      • Brett
        Posted 06/27/2014 12:35 pm 0Likes

        The series isn’t over yet. There are still 2 books to be published I believe. That is why he is “inclining” towards her being clever. He has no idea what is going to happen so calm down.

        I really have no opinion one way or the other on your internet argument but I just want to let you know that the way you talk will never win these internet debates. You brought up some good points but your childish negativity and name calling pretty much diminish every point you make. Ya coulda talked like a rational human being and had an actual discussion but instead you just sound like an angry teenager.

  • ikumikayama
    Posted 06/30/2014 12:36 pm 0Likes

    First of all, I appreciate the time you took to leave comments on my blog post. I see that there are different points of view and each reader takes something different away from the piece and the comments.

    My view on the blog comment section is a place for the readers to have a conversation about the blog post. However, the direction of this particular discussion become commentaries about the people behind the comments.

    For this, I advise that you continue on your discussion elsewhere. There are plenty of other Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire discussion forums on the web. Thank you for your understanding!

  • Jim Wise
    Posted 07/24/2014 6:49 pm 0Likes

    Do I think she is stupid? Yes.

    However, I think that she has the capacity to not be. She went to King’s Landing with a romanticized idea of marrying a prince and got an evil toad. She then thought she was marrying a knight, but got the rug pulled out again. I have not read the books, but hope that her statement, though not an affirmation of intelligence is a portent of future intelligence.

    I have not read the books have have just now started binging seasons 1-4 (up to 3.9)

    • Sansa's character is just young and romantic, agreed
      Posted 10/07/2014 3:31 pm 0Likes

      I agree. Her character represents a romantic ideal often found in this genre of fiction and shows it in all it’s weakness. Sansa’s character is interesting even if her behavior is frustrating to readers who see failures. Give her time to grow like any teen.

  • Donna Richardson
    Posted 07/29/2014 7:08 am 0Likes

    Apparently, some on this blog can’t tell the difference between young, idealistic, and naive on the one hand, and stupid on the other. Sansa is certainly the former. Only time will tell if she is the latter.

  • Just sheltered and young in a harsh world
    Posted 10/07/2014 3:27 pm 0Likes

    Sansa begins as naive. Many young sheltered women do. It takes harsh experiences and bad decisions to lift that sheltered world view, and so her reactions as she matures and makes the most of the circumstances and late-learned lessons will reveal more of her character. It’s premature to dislike her.

  • Rhian Writing
    Posted 05/13/2015 9:32 am 0Likes

    Rather amused but depressed by Carlos’ comment. How often can you use the phrase “dumbfuck” while completely missing the point of a blog post?

    You’ve rightly pointed out that Sansa isn’t privy to a lot of what’s going on. Every character, from Cersei to Ned to Arya, with the possible exceptions of Varys and Petyr, have made serious errors. Sansa, so far, has adapted and survived and is showing the beginnings of sharp political understanding.

    She, like other characters, is developing.

  • Jon
    Posted 03/02/2016 11:18 am 0Likes

    Thanks for this post! I think Sansa is learning all the while, rather than spinning a web. She’ll use all the reputation she’s built up as an innocent helpless young lady to her advantage as she moves forward. And just like she cannot see everything all the time, many others will only know of her what she once was, adding to her ability to deceive. I think she’ll be well placed to do some interesting things. I should read the books!

  • Adacanavar
    Posted 02/07/2017 4:17 am 0Likes

    Read the books Sansa is border line mentally handicapped compared to her siblings, directly from the books not just the show which gets a lot wrong children from the north even the noble children are not shielded from reality Sansa grew up in the same environment as her siblings and yet doesn’t grasp even the basic layout of the kingdom despite the fact that all of her siblings do. She also cannot pick up on social cues and Joffery is obviously an abusive ass from when he is first introduced in book 1 and yet she doesn’t tell the King exactly what happened even though he tried to murder her own sister and another child right in front of her.

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