Monday, December 10, 2012

Why 3 is halfway between 1 and 9

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: 30 is 1, and 32 is 9, so logarithmically, the number halfway between them is 31, or 3. Neural circuits seem to bear out that theory.
--Larry Hardesty, MITnews, on the natural in logarithms. HT: Chris Blattman