Words are needed to think about numbers, study suggests

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Edge Guerrero
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Words are needed to think about numbers, study suggests

Postby Edge Guerrero » Wed Feb 09, 2022 11:17 pm

Among adults who vary in their knowledge of number words, the ability to reason about numbers is bound by the highest number they can count to

Date: February 8, 2022
Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Summary: Researchers have found a new relationship between counting ability of Tsimane' individuals and their ability to perform matching tasks that involve numbers up to about 25. The results suggest that in order to think about exact numbers, people need to have a word for that number.

Among many of the Tsimane' people, who live in a remote region of the Bolivian rainforest, numbers do not play an important role in their lives, and people living in this society vary widely in how high they can count.

A new study from MIT and the University of California at Berkeley has found a relationship between the counting ability of Tsimane' individuals and their success at matching tasks that involve numbers up to about 25. The researchers found that most subjects could accurately perform tasks that require matching numbers of objects, but only up to the highest number that they could count to.

The results suggest that in order to represent an exact quantity larger than four, people may need to have a word for that number, says Edward Gibson, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

"This finding provides the clearest evidence to date that number words play a functional role in people's ability to represent exact quantities larger than four, and supports the broader claim that language can enable new conceptual abilities," says Gibson, one of the authors of the new study.

Berkeley postdoc Benjamin Pitt is the lead author of the paper, which appears today in Psychological Science. Steven Piantadosi, an assistant professor of psychology at Berkeley, is the senior author of the study.

Words count

In a 2014 study, Gibson, Piantadosi, and former MIT graduate student Julian Jara-Ettinger found that Tsimane' children learn the meanings of number words along the same developmental trajectory as children in industrialized societies. That is, first they understand "one," then they add "two, "three," and "four," in sequence. At that point, however, a dramatic shift in understanding takes place, and children grasp the meanings of not only "five" and "six," but all of the number words they know.

Children in industrialized societies, which place a much greater emphasis on numbers, begin to learn to count around age 2 and have a sophisticated understanding of numbers and counting by age 4 or 5. However, among the Tsimane', this trajectory occurs later, beginning around age 5 and ending around age 8.

For the new study, Gibson and his colleagues identified 15 Tsimane' people who could count to somewhere between six and 20, and 15 who could count to at least 40. This gave them the opportunity to compare individuals with different verbal counting abilities and to test the hypothesis that without number words, people are unable to do exact matching tasks that require them to mentally represent numbers greater than four.

To study this question, the researchers used a task known as "orthogonal matching." In the simplest matching task, researchers would present a line of objects, such as batteries, and then ask the participants to line up an equivalent number of a different object, such as spools of thread. With orthogonal matching, the objects are presented in a horizontal line but the participants must line up the corresponding number vertically, so they can't simply match them one-to-one.

The MIT team found that the Tsimane' people were able to perform this task, but only up to just below the number they can count to. That is, someone who can count to 10 would start making mistakes when asked to match eight or nine objects, while someone who can count to 15 would start making mistakes around 13 or 14

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Number representations

The findings suggest that tasks that require manipulation of numbers can only be done using number words or other explicit systems for representing numbers, Gibson says.

"When we get to larger numbers, even just five and six, we need some way to represent that if you want to represent it exactly," he says. "It doesn't have to be words -- you could use your fingers or something like that -- but you need some kind of independent representation of the numbers."

In future work, Gibson hopes to further study how children learn number representations, which is easier to do with Tsimane' participants because they learn numbers at an older age than children in Western societies.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

Source
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/02/220208191741.htm
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Postby Luigi » Sat Feb 12, 2022 3:39 pm

People have often assumed that because we have 10 fingers we have always been able to count to 10. Not true. Many tribes have words for 1 and 2, but after that just use a term meaning "many". Each new number is in some way an important intellectual development.
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Postby Edge Guerrero » Sat Feb 12, 2022 3:59 pm

Luigi wrote:People have often assumed that because we have 10 fingers we have always been able to count to 10. Not true. Many tribes have words for 1 and 2, but after that just use a term meaning "many". Each new number is in some way an important intellectual development.


- That's a interesting topic. What would be the first register to reach 10 or 100?
The first tribe? How numbers spread around?
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Postby Luigi » Sun Feb 13, 2022 7:04 pm

Edge Guerrero wrote:
Luigi wrote:People have often assumed that because we have 10 fingers we have always been able to count to 10. Not true. Many tribes have words for 1 and 2, but after that just use a term meaning "many". Each new number is in some way an important intellectual development.


- That's a interesting topic. What would be the first register to reach 10 or 100?
The first tribe? How numbers spread around?

Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of English, Portuguese, Hindi, and countless other languages, was spoken about 5.5-6 thousand years ago and already had at least one word for 1000. Sumerian also had a word for 1000 and was spoken 5-4 thousand years ago. Akkadian, spoken 4.5-2 thousand years ago, had a word for 1000 but its an obvious loanword from Sumerian.

It seems likely that people start using numbers like these when they need them, and they need them when they give up nomadic life to become farmers.
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Postby Edge Guerrero » Sun Feb 13, 2022 11:49 pm

Luigi wrote:
Edge Guerrero wrote:
Luigi wrote:People have often assumed that because we have 10 fingers we have always been able to count to 10. Not true. Many tribes have words for 1 and 2, but after that just use a term meaning "many". Each new number is in some way an important intellectual development.


- That's a interesting topic. What would be the first register to reach 10 or 100?
The first tribe? How numbers spread around?

Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of English, Portuguese, Hindi, and countless other languages, was spoken about 5.5-6 thousand years ago and already had at least one word for 1000. Sumerian also had a word for 1000 and was spoken 5-4 thousand years ago. Akkadian, spoken 4.5-2 thousand years ago, had a word for 1000 but its an obvious loanword from Sumerian.

It seems likely that people start using numbers like these when they need them, and they need them when they give up nomadic life to become farmers.


- Thank you, man. This is a very interesting subject.
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Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
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Luigi
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Postby Luigi » Mon Feb 14, 2022 4:50 am

Edge Guerrero wrote:
Luigi wrote:
Edge Guerrero wrote:
- That's a interesting topic. What would be the first register to reach 10 or 100?
The first tribe? How numbers spread around?

Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of English, Portuguese, Hindi, and countless other languages, was spoken about 5.5-6 thousand years ago and already had at least one word for 1000. Sumerian also had a word for 1000 and was spoken 5-4 thousand years ago. Akkadian, spoken 4.5-2 thousand years ago, had a word for 1000 but its an obvious loanword from Sumerian.

It seems likely that people start using numbers like these when they need them, and they need them when they give up nomadic life to become farmers.


- Thank you, man. This is a very interesting subject.

If you're into this sort of thing check out Denise Shmandt-Besserat, she dedicated her whole life to studying this kind of think and has written at least two books on it.
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Edge Guerrero
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Postby Edge Guerrero » Mon Feb 14, 2022 10:36 pm

Luigi wrote:
Edge Guerrero wrote:
Luigi wrote:Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of English, Portuguese, Hindi, and countless other languages, was spoken about 5.5-6 thousand years ago and already had at least one word for 1000. Sumerian also had a word for 1000 and was spoken 5-4 thousand years ago. Akkadian, spoken 4.5-2 thousand years ago, had a word for 1000 but its an obvious loanword from Sumerian.

It seems likely that people start using numbers like these when they need them, and they need them when they give up nomadic life to become farmers.


- Thank you, man. This is a very interesting subject.

If you're into this sort of thing check out Denise Shmandt-Besserat, she dedicated her whole life to studying this kind of think and has written at least two books on it.


- As a student. How do you feel about the intentional destruction of those historic document's?
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Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back I'll fight to remain

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Edge Guerrero
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Postby Edge Guerrero » Mon Feb 14, 2022 10:37 pm

Luigi wrote:
Edge Guerrero wrote:
Luigi wrote:Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of English, Portuguese, Hindi, and countless other languages, was spoken about 5.5-6 thousand years ago and already had at least one word for 1000. Sumerian also had a word for 1000 and was spoken 5-4 thousand years ago. Akkadian, spoken 4.5-2 thousand years ago, had a word for 1000 but its an obvious loanword from Sumerian.

It seems likely that people start using numbers like these when they need them, and they need them when they give up nomadic life to become farmers.


- Thank you, man. This is a very interesting subject.

If you're into this sort of thing check out Denise Shmandt-Besserat, she dedicated her whole life to studying this kind of think and has written at least two books on it.


- How do i find his work?
- I rent this space for advertising

Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back I'll fight to remain

User avatar
Luigi
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Postby Luigi » Tue Feb 15, 2022 6:32 pm

Edge Guerrero wrote:
Luigi wrote:
Edge Guerrero wrote:
- Thank you, man. This is a very interesting subject.

If you're into this sort of thing check out Denise Shmandt-Besserat, she dedicated her whole life to studying this kind of think and has written at least two books on it.


- How do i find his work?

The intentional destruction of historical material is of course a great tragedy, and another reason I loathe the military industrial complex which ultimately creates the destruction.

For DSB, lots of stuff came up from a quick search:

https://web.archive.org/web/20120521204 ... ofLife.pdf

https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr= ... at&f=false

https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr= ... at&f=false

https://www.jstor.org/stable/24955753

https://sites.utexas.edu/dsb/

https://web.archive.org/web/20070221174 ... du/ghazal/
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Edge Guerrero
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Postby Edge Guerrero » Tue Feb 15, 2022 8:35 pm

Luigi wrote:
Edge Guerrero wrote:
Luigi wrote:If you're into this sort of thing check out Denise Shmandt-Besserat, she dedicated her whole life to studying this kind of think and has written at least two books on it.


- How do i find his work?

The intentional destruction of historical material is of course a great tragedy, and another reason I loathe the military industrial complex which ultimately creates the destruction.

For DSB, lots of stuff came up from a quick search:

https://web.archive.org/web/20120521204 ... ofLife.pdf

https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr= ... at&f=false

https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr= ... at&f=false

https://www.jstor.org/stable/24955753

https://sites.utexas.edu/dsb/

https://web.archive.org/web/20070221174 ... du/ghazal/


- We lost a huge part of our history.


https://www.history.com/news/cultural-sites-heritage-wars

Thank you for the links.
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Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back I'll fight to remain


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