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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/809

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GUESSING AND NUMBER PREFERENCES.

bination possible in the tens thus represented. That is to say, other things equal, one would have a right to expect 334 or 332 to occur as often as 333. But the fact is, in this particular case, 333 occurred forty-eight times, while the other two put together occurred only three times. Here, however, we have the combined influence of the preference for the odd over the even and the digital sequence. Still, if we select 444, we find that this number, made up though it is of three digits in general least selected of all, the preference for alliterative effect is strong enough to make the number occur 28 times to 14 times for both 443 and 445. If we take 777, we find that it was used more times than all the other combinations from 770 to 779 inclusive, put together.

Therefore, under conditions similar to those presented for these guesses, one would be safe to expect these duplicative or alliterative numbers to occur much oftener than any other single number in the series.

It would evidently be unsafe to generalize upon the basis of this study, notwithstanding the large number of guesses considered. However, it seems to me that the results here obtained at least suggest a field of inquiry which promises interesting returns. If it be true, as here suggested, that odd numbers are preferred by guessers, advantage could be taken of this preference in many ways. Furthermore, as I suspect, it may be that this probable preference points to a habit of mind which more or less influences results not depending strictly on guessing. It has been shown, for example, that the length of criminal sentences has been largely affected by preferences for 5 or multiples of 5—that is to say, where judges have power to fix the length of sentence within certain limits, there is a strong probability that they will be influenced in their judgments by the habitual use of 5 or its multiples. Here it would seem that unconscious preference overrides what one has a right to consider the most careful and impartial judgments possible, based upon actual and well-digested data.[1]

Another thing is noticeable in these guesses. The consciousness of number beyond 1,000 falls off very rapidly. The difference in the values of 1,000 and 1,500 seems to have had less weight with the guessers than a difference of 50 had at any place below 1,000. And so, in a way, 1,000 seems to mark the limit of any sort of definite mental measurement. This fact is more and more emphasized as the numbers representing the guesses increase until one can see there exists absolutely no conception of the value of numbers. For example, many guessed 1,000,000, while several guessed more than


  1. See H. Le Poer. Influence of Number in Criminal Sentences. Harper's Weekly, May 14, 1896.