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.
Thread beginning with comment 537943
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
theosib
Member since:
2006-03-02

This seems like a lot of work to explain a peculiar result, when I see no evidence that the researchers even tried to verify that those answering 3 (or even 5) actually understood the question. The bias could come from having an unexpected interpretation of "half way," where a more careful definition might yield a different answer.

Reply Score: 1

kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

This seems like a lot of work to explain a peculiar result, when I see no evidence that the researchers even tried to verify that those answering 3 (or even 5) actually understood the question. The bias could come from having an unexpected interpretation of "half way," where a more careful definition might yield a different answer.


You, like a lot of the other commenters, missed the point of this research. This research isn't about testing how smart or dumb people are.

The research is about teasing out the way the brain actually works. That's why they want people to answer intuitively without thinking much about it. That way, we can see that 1) There really is a discrepancy between our intuition and learned behaviour 2) What form this discrepancy takes.

Reply Parent Score: 4

Savior Member since:
2006-09-02

The research is about teasing out the way the brain actually works. That's why they want people to answer intuitively without thinking much about it.


I still find it difficult to believe that people would actually answer 3. Maybe there are such people, but the article does not quote the related statistics from the paper, and the wording does not make me believe it even could. (Anyway, small children can't count).

Also, this simple question does not form a very strong basis for building a whole theory on (in all fairness, judging from the article, they have other arguments). I would be interested what people who answered 3 (if there ARE such people) would answer to other ranges, e.g. 1 and 50 (most likely 10, not 7), 1 and 16 or 1 and 100. I like to play with the thought that as the number gets bigger, the answers would converge to the arithmetic mean.

Reply Parent Score: 3

theosib Member since:
2006-03-02

I never thought it had anything to do with testing intelligence. What I'm saying is that there's room for different interpretations of the question. So there are two places that a subject can deviate from expected responses. One is that they understand the question and have a different concept of "in between." The other is that they didn't interpret the question in the way that the researchers assume they should.

Reply Parent Score: 2