Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Oct 2012 21:54 UTC
In the News "Ask adults from the industrialized world what number is halfway between 1 and 9, and most will say 5. But pose the same question to small children, or people living in some traditional societies, and they're likely to answer 3. Cognitive scientists theorize that that's because it's actually more natural for humans to think logarithmically than linearly." Fascinating. The human brain is such a magical machine.
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RE: How do you get 3?
by izomiac on Tue 9th Oct 2012 01:21 UTC in reply to "How do you get 3?"
izomiac
Member since:
2006-07-26

3^0 = 1, 3^2 = 9, so apparently kids and adults who weren't taught the algebra naturally think of 3^1 = 3 as half-way between the two. IOW, we don't quantify numbers by counting, we look at order of magnitude.

This is similar to how people whose native language lacks larger integers (e.g. they have words for: one, two, three, a few, and a lot) have difficulty with math like 17 + 6. They're always close, but rarely get it exactly right. Traditionally the explanation is that named integers help us remember exact quantities, but it could be that such people are operating under a logarithmic scale.

From a practicality standpoint, the theory makes sense. Orders of magnitude are far more important than exact numbers. But I think they still have a lot of research to do before most people will believe it.

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