RE: one vs 1

Subject: RE: one vs 1
From: "Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant)" <MadelynBoudreaux -at- ge -dot- com>
To: <quills -at- airmail -dot- net>, "Deborah Hemstreet" <dvora -at- tech-challenged -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 2009 12:30:37 -0400

quills -at- airmail -dot- net wrote:

>In truth there is a reason to use written numerals for
>ten and below. That is the flow and comprehension for reading.

I've always thought that this must be related to something like Dunbar
numbers (the anthropological concept that your "tribe" or circle of
friends -- the people about whom you know something and recognize easily
and have stable relationships with -- is actually a biological rule,
related to how our neocortex works, and is usually guessed to be around

Far simpler is that any adult who has learned Arabic numbers, knows --
seemingly without any cognitive work -- that 3 is three is III, probably
because we (usually) have 10 fingers, so these low numbers just come to
our minds easily. Obviously, this can't be truly hard-wired, since we
aren't born knowing Arabic numbers. But it may be so reinforced in our
learning that by the time we're adults, it is an automatic response.
This occurred to me while reading Watership Down -- the rabbits in it
can only count to 4, and they thus have the same word for 5 as for 1000.
I realized that humans can only conceive of numbers up to X, although
I'm not sure what X is -- only, after X, we just go over into "a lot."
(Also, if you haven't read this book, I can forgive you for thinking
this whole idea of counting rabbits is preposterous...) I wish I could
find research on this, but I don't know where to look.

So, while writing out numbers doesn't break the "rules," it likely taxes
the abilities of cognition for no useful return. Probably a bad idea.

- Madelyn

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one vs 1: From: Deborah Hemstreet
Re: one vs 1: From: quills

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