Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/524

This page has been validated.
506
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

at least without once fixing his attention upon it or speaking of it to his nearest friends, although such a one might use his form in daily computation. It seems to him quite natural to see the numbers in that way, and the thought may never enter his mind that others should see them differently. Again, if one is consciousPSM V42 D524 Visualization of specific numbers.jpgFig. 5. of a peculiar form, he regards it as an idiosyncrasy and exhibits a certain shyness in revealing it. For this reason it is especially hard to get all the number forms from a company of children. They do not like to be laughed at, and will willingly keep silent about anything which they suspect may be another of those idiosyncrasies causing such mental torment to many children. Finally, those who do not have complicated forms are apt to think that the little curve, twist, or angle in which they see the numbers is quite too trifling a matter to mention. I am inclined to believe that one out of six adults would be a more accurate proportion, that the proportion among children would be still greater, and that it is perhaps a little more common among women than men.

The questions one would naturally ask a person having a number form are these: "How long have you seen the numbers in this way? Is the form fixed or is it changeable? What was its origin?" The answers to these questions are almost absolutely invariable. They would be as follows: "I have seen the numbers in this way ever since I can remember. The form is fixed and unchangeable. Its origin I do not know." In a very few cases when the nine digits always appear in mental vision as a mere straight line from left to right, the subject may conjecture that it originated with the printed forms from which they were learned. I have found that certain simple kinds of alphabet forms are very common. If a number of people be asked whether, when theyPSM V42 D524 Visualization of stepped numbers.jpgFig. 6. think of the alphabet from a to z, they see it in a visual picture, and if so in what particular form, it will be found that a considerable number will say that they see the letters in one, two, or three vertical columns reading downward. A simple illustration is seen in Fig. 7. When there are two or three columns, the same letter always appears to a given person at the top of each column, but I have not found two forms alike except when they consist of a single straight line. In these cases the suggestion is often made by the seer that the letters were so arranged in his primer. Obviously this explanation would not apply to any such alphabet