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You Are Always Subconsciously Factoring

Writing in The Guardian, Alex Bellos treats readers to surprising insights into how we react to numbers.

Bellos introduces a onetime taxi driver who, despite not preparing for the competition, earned the most versatile calculator title at the 2010 Mental Calculation World Cup and the founder of a consulting firm that advises multinational companies on the symbolism of their brands. He describes a study that pitted two fictitious lines of contact lenses—Solus 36 and Solus 37—against each other and found that consumers preferred the product with a non-prime in its name.

"The pleasure rush that comes from subconsciously recognising a simple multiplication makes us feel good,...and we misattribute the buzz as satisfaction with the product," Bellos writes. "We are always sensitive to whether a number is divisible or not, and this sensitivity influences our behaviour."

Read the piece.

Start Date: 
Monday, April 21, 2014