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17 is The Random Number

July 22, 2010

Well, the reason I asked you guys to post some random number between 1-20 was to see how many of you choose 17 as your random number. It has been observed by many people that when asked to choose a random number between 1-20, people tend to choose 17 more often than any other number. There are many theories which try to explain this but none of them are conclusive. Human minds like to follow patterns, preferences and thereby we are less likely to be good random number generators. When faced with a question of choosing a random number, we tend to look for those numbers which appear to be less common , such as prime numbers. That can probably explain why we pick prime numbers more often as compared to other numbers. So between 1-20, there are 8 of them- 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19. Probably 2 and 5 can be ruled out being too common among all of them. 3,7 and 13 have cultural references. That leaves 11, 17 and 19. Of these three, why we prefer to pick 17 is a mystery.  Maybe because 17 is neither too far away nor too near from the upper limit 20. If you have any other theories, please post it. By the way, if asked to choose a random number between 1-100, most people choose 37 as the random number, making it the most commonly chosen random two-digit number.

In short humans are poor random number generators!

Picture credit: Flickr user sarahbaker

Filed under: Trivia

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