Ok Readers, lets play a quick game. You only have a couple seconds to name a number between 1 and 10.
This game has been very popular with mind readers since the art was invented because they can fool us into thinking that our thoughts are transparent. But, it all comes down to science. In fact, for some reason when asked this question, the majority of people will always choose the number 7. So for those readers who complied with the norm, feel comfortable in the sense that you are just like everybody else, and for those readers who chose a number other than 7, feel comfortable in the sense that you are completely weird but will probably rule us all one day.
So why am I writing about this topic? Partially because I watch way too much America’s Got Talent, partially because science is awesome, and partially because I think it speaks to the fact that, despite human diversity, we do all think alike in some way.
But, I tend not to take things at face value. So, I set out with some friends to eat some ramen and to test this theory in the real world- of course as a drinking game- and of course with alcohol that I had never tried before, which was Sake.
Pair off tournament style so everybody has an opponent
Each person in their match up choose EVEN or ODD
Ask a random restaurant guest to pick a number between 1 and 10
If the number complied with your even/odd choice then you drink and do not move on to the next round
Continue until only two remain and up the anti to a half full glass of sake
I learned a couple of important things after playing a couple rounds of this game. First, never use sake in a drinking game. Second, people do not take kindly to being disturbed multiple times at dinner for a seemingly trivial game and third, if you choose ODD, you will loose every time because EVERYBODY picks 7. In 2011 a popular mathematics author named Alex Bellos surveyed over 30,000 people and asked them to pick a number between 1 and 100. Even with 10 times more numbers to choose from, the highest percentage of participants still picked the number 7.
So why is this? Firstly, we like single digits because they are simple and not complicated. Secondly, odd numbers are seen as more exotic because they cannot be split in two and are thus imperfect. This number also cannot be multiplied within the bounds of 10. For example: 2,3,4 and 5 can all be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled and still result in a number that is less than 10. This makes these numbers less exotic to us and less preferable. In fact, many people actually pick 7 because they think that not many other people would pick it as well. Thirdly, we dislike common numbers such as 5 and 10, which we are used to rounding up to. 3 is actually the second most chosen number between 1 and 10, but like multiples of 5, we tend to group things into 3s and in this way it becomes more common than 7, and therefore less interesting to us. Finally, 7 is actually very prevalent in nature. There are 7 planets, 7 continents, 7 seas and 7 colors in the rainbow. I challenge you readers to think about other cultural constructs that use the number 7: a certain British spy comes to mind, or the number of days in the week.
FRANKLY, the number 7 is key part of our social construct. I, for one, find it very interesting that by choosing something that we feel will differentiate ourselves and make us more unique, we in fact, become more similar to each other.