How do you count?

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by James R, Feb 5, 2024.

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How do you count? (Read the opening post before answering the poll.)

This poll will close on Dec 5, 2024 at 9:29 AM.
  1. I "hear" the numbers in my head.

    10 vote(s)
    71.4%
  2. I "see" the numbers in my head.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. I do both.

    3 vote(s)
    21.4%
  4. It doesn't work either of those ways for me. It's different. [Describe your process in the thread.]

    1 vote(s)
    7.1%
  5. I have never thought about it before, and I don't intend to start now.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. I don't understand what this poll is about.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. Why are you asking such a silly question?

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  8. I have an in-principle objection to answering polls like this one. Just show me the results.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  9. What does this option do?

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Messages:
    39,237
    Count from 57 up to 75 in your head.

    What did that feel like to you, in your head? Describe how the process of counting goes for you.

    I remember reading about this in one of physicist Richard Feynman's semi-autobiographical books.

    For instance, for me counting is a sort of auditory process. In my head, it's like I hear myself saying the words "57, 58, 59, 60, ..." If I want to, I can visualise the numbers too, perhaps appearing one by one and disappearing, but that is not the primary or automatic sensation I have when I count silently.

    For some other people, a different thing happens. Some people describe "seeing" a mental image of a long number line stretching out from left to right. As they count, their visual attention moves from one number to the next on the line - or maybe the line as a whole moves to bring the next number into the centre of attention.

    The point is: my perception of counting in my head feels primarily auditory. For some other people, the primary sensation is a visual one.

    Feynman tried some experiments. He found that he could count in his head at a more-or-less consistent rate under normal circumstances. That is, he could reliably start at 1 and count up to approximately the same number (plus or minus one or two) in the space of, say, 1 minute. So, then he tried various experiments to see whether he could perform additional activities while counting in his head, and to measure the extent to which different activities would throw off his timing. For instance, he tried running up stairs while counting in his head (because exercise increases heart rate, which might affect the internal count rate). He tried various mental activities too, like reciting a poem out loud at the same time as mentally counting in his head, or drawing a picture - or writing something down - while counting in his head.

    Feynman described his own counting process the same way it works for me. He found that, for example, for him, running up stairs had little to no effect on the count rate. But he found it practically impossible to speak while maintaining a consistent count rate in his head. He conjectured that speaking messed with the process because when you speak you're interrupting the mental "one, two, three, four ..." that you're trying to "say" in your head.

    However, Feynman also carried out his experiments on other people. He found that the visual types - the ones who described seeing the numbers on a line - had no problem speaking out loud while maintaining their internal count rate. But if they had to do a visual task - like drawing or writing, that would mess things up for them.

    I think this is an interesting insight into the "other minds" problem we all face. Counting seems like an ordinary activity that everyone can do, and most of us probably never think about how we do it. Turns out that different people do it quite differently from how you do it. While they may look like ordinary human beings, just like you, it turns out that some of them are actually weird beings whose internal thought processes work quite differently from yours.

    So, how does the counting thing work for you? Let's collect some statistics in the poll.
     
    Yazata and C C like this.
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  3. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,370
    I hear the numbers in my head, but I also have a very dim visual picture of a line of numbers, curiously extending from right to left and possibly with colour coding, the (80s being purple and the nineties brown, I think). I have a feeling the pictorial aspect may date from a very early leaning of numbers in kindergarten - the good work of Mother McCluskey, at Craiglockhart Convent, as it then was, in Edinburgh, circa 1958.

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  5. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    842
    Hear them.
     
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  7. geordief Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,103
    Amazed to learn anyone can see them
    .I count them semi audibly and with impatience.
     
  8. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    842
    I kind of “feel it” too.


    Almost like walking or playing a piano scale.


    Muscle memory, synaptic memory – how many times have I counted to ten in my life?
     
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,885
    I am a highly visual person; most things I do and learn are via visual processes - yet I too hear my own voice counting in my head.
     
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,370
    Actually I got my description of the visual part a bit wrong. It is more complicated than I had said. There is a descent from 1-10, then a short plateau, going left to right, from 11-14, then a further descent to 20/21, then a line from right to left until 30, where it turns round and then goes, a bit farther away, back from left to right diagonally off into the distance.
     
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,885
    You, sir, are a weirdo.
     
    James R likes this.
  12. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,500
    I hear the numbers audibly in my head. However a lot of my thought processes are visual which I have to translate to words if I try to explain them to others.
     
  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,241
    Some people with aphantasia may not even be able to do that, if it occasionally involves more than just an inability to have visual thoughts. In order to be functional at all, though, my guess is that such a subset could surely still "count in internal silence and darkness", possibly in the vein of a philosophical zombie.

    Aphantasia may be associated with more cognitive functions than previously thought
    https://www.news-medical.net/news/2...nitive-functions-than-previously-thought.aspx

    While people with aphantasia wouldn't have been able to picture the image of the sunset mentioned above, many could have imagined the feeling of sand between their toes, or the sound of the seagulls and the waves crashing in. However, 26 per cent of aphantasic study participants reported a broader lack of multi-sensory imagery - including imagining sound, touch, motion, taste, smell and emotion.

    Personally, I count in the auditory mode. But I'm highly visual in a lot of my thoughts, often either initially apprehending or creatively conceptualizing affairs in that context before converting them to description.
    _
     
  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,370
    Heh heh.
     
  15. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    842
    I think our resident Chemist is being a tad facetious.
     
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,370
    F
    Funnily enough I’m actually being quite serious. This visualisation of numbers (well, the first 100 or so +ve integers) is one I have had all my life. It must go back to some picture I saw very early, I think. Or perhaps I made it up when I was small.
     
  17. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    842
    Wow!
    Some savants see numbers and calculations as a landscape they move through.
     
  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,885

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  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,902
    I just tried it and I don't think that I "see" or "hear" the numbers at all.

    But 'hearing' is a lot closer than 'seeing' and maybe I should have replied 'hear'.

    What I do is subvocalize the numbers. It's like when I think about what I'm going to say before I say it. I think of the words sure enough, but I don't imagine actually hearing them.

    I'm kind of speculating now, but maybe there's a language-generation function and a language-understanding function that overlap a great deal and probably use many of the same parts of the brain. But the generation function outputs through the mouth (or through the hands, it would be instructive to try this with deaf people who habitually sign their thoughts) while the understanding function inputs through the ears (or other senses).

    So... it isn't so much that I hear or see the numbers, it's more that I say them to myself.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2024
    C C likes this.
  20. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,370
    Not bad. But it would be technicolour - and I realise I got the left and right the wrong the way round in my description so it would be a mirror image.

    The colours are complicated. I think the 30s and 60s are yellow, the 20s are green except 24 which is sort of purple, the 40s are red, fifties orange, 70s a sort of blue-green, 80s purple, 90s brown. I think 1-1 have individual colours and I'm unsure about 10-20.

    God knows where this comes from. I think I had this picture in my head when learning my multiplication tables, though I could not tell you if it helped or not.
     
  21. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,241
    My thoughts occur as either a narrating voice or as pictures. They manifest as such experienced sound or images, much as when I'm perceiving the environment via my eyes or ears. Especially the auditory thoughts -- they are completely as vivid as real life. When I replay music in my head, it has all the fidelity of the original.

    You might be bordering on aphantasia (the smaller percentage of those people that are "mind-blind" with respect to auditory thoughts, too). But I very much I doubt it. You're probably far removed from Blake Ross, who has zero visual imagination (albeit I'm guessing his auditory thought capacity is intact).

    https://aeon.co/essays/the-moral-imperative-to-learn-from-diverse-phenomenal-experiences

    Take the case of Blake Ross, the co-creator of the Firefox web browser. For the first three decades of his life, Ross assumed his subjective experience was typical. After all, why wouldn’t he? Then he read a popular science story about people who do not have visual imagery. While most people can, without much effort, form vivid images in their ‘mind’s eye’, others cannot – a condition that has been documented since the 1800s but only recently named: aphantasia.

    Ross learned from the article that he himself had aphantasia. His reaction was memorable: ‘Imagine your phone buzzes with breaking news: WASHINGTON SCIENTISTS DISCOVER TAIL-LESS MAN. Well, then, what are you?’

    Ross went on to ask his friends about what it’s like for them when they imagine various things, quickly realising that, just as he took his lack of imagery as a fact of the human condition, they similarly took their presence of visual imagery as a given. ‘I have never visualised anything in my entire life,’ Ross wrote in Vox in 2016. ‘I can’t “see” my father’s face or a bouncing blue ball, my childhood bedroom or the run I went on 10 minutes ago… I’m 30 years old, and I never knew a human could do any of this. And it is blowing my goddamn mind.’
    _
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2024

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