Got a few seconds?

by Eszter Hargittai on August 27, 2006

Then click here.

Before reading on, you should click on the link.. not that I’m going to say that much about it here. Basically, I’m just curious to see where it is going and I thought it would be more interesting if Reddit and Digg readers weren’t the only ones taking it. You can sign up for notification about the outcome here.



Andrew John 08.27.06 at 8:51 am

I think it is less interesting than it looks at first sight. We are unlikely to learn anything that we don’t already know, and I also think that the instruction manages to contradict itself (in only four words, which is quite an achievement).


Matt 08.27.06 at 9:04 am

That was kind of dumb.


Andrew John 08.27.06 at 9:13 am

Not to mention self-contradictory.


Kieran Healy 08.27.06 at 9:16 am

We should at least see some histograms at the end, as a reward for the participant … it should be straightforward to generate some graphic of the emerging distribution on the fly.


The Modesto Kid 08.27.06 at 9:26 am

My friends and I tried an experiment like this in Jr. High, except without any computers or questionaires or non-subjective recording of the results. We came away with the definite impression that “37” was the response we were most likely to get.


dearieme 08.27.06 at 9:37 am

A certain generation would surely answer 42?


Eszter 08.27.06 at 9:39 am

Perhaps they don’t want to post anything for now in order not to influence the results. Patience folks, patience.:-)


Matthew B. 08.27.06 at 9:43 am

This kind of survey has been done before — I think I’ve read about it in a Martin Gardner column or somewhere. People tend to go heavy on the odd digits. “7” is especially popular. Some magicians base telepathy stunts on this, pretending to mentally transmit numbers to their audiences and so forth.


Jacob Christensen 08.27.06 at 10:01 am

For the record:

I did not answer that number, 42.


Bill Jones 08.27.06 at 10:15 am

RE #3 – hokey smoke! I did enter 37. Why the heck is that a common answer?


DonBoy 08.27.06 at 10:34 am

“37” is what I’ve heard is the most “random-seeming” number, and I just sent the guy mail saying that, BEFORE reading any of these comments.


tom s. 08.27.06 at 10:40 am

If the set of participants contains enough people who know about the “expected” numbers (37, 42) then perhaps there will be a second order effect because of people avoiding such “random-seeming” or otherwise “likely” numbers. I know that’s what I did.


Dylan 08.27.06 at 10:53 am

I deliberately put in 37 for exactly that reason and explained what I was doing. I don’t think the results will provide any actually useful conclusions.

It is, incidentally, fun to observe how often 37 appears in TV and print as the sum of some items incidental to plot or exposition.


eudoxis 08.27.06 at 10:57 am

There have been many surveys about what people most prefer as random numbers. People tend to pick odd and prime. I deliberately buck those known trends and pick numbers like ‘2’, or ‘4’.


Richard Bellamy 08.27.06 at 11:42 am

My first thought was “42”, but that didn’t seem very random, so I changed in to “47” and typed that in. Maybe it was a mental combination of “42” and the aforementioned “37”.


Adam Roberts 08.27.06 at 12:22 pm

I typed in 50. Looking back, I think it’s because the UK Government has decreed a target of 50% of the population to be university educated; a number which, since it has no relation to any of the realities of the social, cultural or economic needs of the country (for if it had such a relation, it would not be the extraordinarily rounded-out 50), seems to me deeply random.


Jacob T. Levy 08.27.06 at 9:41 pm

I took the easy route, 42– thought about second-guessing it then declined to do so.


DC 08.27.06 at 11:33 pm

What you didn’t enter 3 root pi?

Nobody ever guesses that number.


Richard 08.27.06 at 11:40 pm

Hmm, I picked ’73’, perhaps I’ve a tangled-up brain pathway somewhere… ;-)


Matthew B. 08.28.06 at 1:02 am

Yeah, dc, I thought of putting in a non-integer. But a truly random-ish real isn’t the kind of thing you can type in on a number pad.


MikeN 08.28.06 at 2:47 am



Z 08.28.06 at 3:03 am

Nobody ever guesses that number.

I do guess pi square over six a fair amount of the time. Also, my brain suggested me 27 and I put 33.


James Wimberley 08.28.06 at 5:03 am

I chose 92 to counteract the expected tendency to pick numbers near the median. So random in a very odd way.


Tim McG 08.28.06 at 9:57 am

They’ll probably find out more about keyboard numpad usage than anything else. (Which I, for one, would be even more interested in!)


Silly Bear 08.28.06 at 12:01 pm

75. Anyone that didn’t think of 75 first has serious issues with personal happiness.


Alden 08.28.06 at 2:42 pm

Interesting. I picked “2” because that’s the key my left hand landed on when I moved it from the mouse to the keyboard.

The questionaire maybe should include handedness ;)


Chris 08.28.06 at 3:59 pm

Nifty. I entered 79. No good reason other than it was easy to type and sounded like a prime number.


Moss Collum 08.28.06 at 5:58 pm

Another tangled up brain here: I also put 73.

I’m reminded of the Click Survey, a similar sort of experiment with clicking on images.


bad Jim 08.29.06 at 3:15 am

Another 47. Evidently my unconscious interpreted “pick a random number between 1 and 100” as “select a prime near the midpoint.” Perhaps 53 was too girlish.


boffo 08.29.06 at 9:18 am

My first choice for “random” number is usually 63 which, it turns out, is 100-37. Imagine that.


des von bladet 08.29.06 at 12:47 pm

23 is the Most Random Number, of course. (But I saw it on reddit, also of course.)


arthur 08.29.06 at 10:52 pm

Really, this isn’t anything new. Magicians know about common random numbers and “forcing” certain numbers through wording of the question for quite a while already.

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