It turns out that the brain responds accurately to up to “four” but becomes fuzzy on “five or more”.

【The human brain responded accurately from “1 to 4” but became ambiguous at “5 and above”!】


・A research team from the University of Bonn and the University of Tübingen in Germany recently discovered that neurons in the human brain respond correspondingly to each number from 1 to 4.

・On the other hand, identify that the system is designed to respond to higher numbers with a lump sum of “5 or more”.

・In other words, if there are up to four apples placed in front of you, you can instantly determine their exact number, but as soon as there are five or more, you cannot tell at a glance how many there are, and identification seems to start taking time.

・An experiment 150 years ago produced similar results. They could always guess the exact number of black beans in the box if there were four or fewer, whereas once there were five or more black beans, the percentage of correct answers at a glimpse began to drop.”In other words, we expect that humans are “Subitizing (immediate recognition of numbers)” to instantly identify the exact number of objects from 1 to 4, and “Estimating (estimating the number)” to estimate the number as close as possible if the number is 5 or more.

The most significant discovery was that neurons (nerve cells) in the human brain had a mechanism to fire in response to a specific number. For example, there are neurons that respond to the number 2, and when they recognize that number, they fire and the neurons appear to light up in brain scans (this mechanism has been found in monkeys and crows as well as humans).

・When neuron 3 fires, the 2s and 4s before and after it are clearly silent. However, as soon as the number becomes 5 or more, the selectivity of the neurons ceases to function at all. For example, when 6 fires, the neurons that determine the number also fire 5 and 7 before and after it, and this becomes more ambiguous as the number increases

・Instantaneous grasp of numbers is an essential survival skill for all living things. For example, monkeys need to quickly compare the number of berries in a tree with the number of rivals competing for them, and decide whether to flee or fight. Primitive humans would also have instantly assessed how many predators were present and decided whether to fight or retreat. Perhaps “4 or less” and “5 or more” were related to that decision-making process as some kind of boundary line?



These are the quotes from the article




Is the theory that the brain can grasp up to four senses applicable to all five senses?


It is said that the brain’s mechanism is such that it can quickly grasp “up to four” and becomes vague when it comes to “five or more”.


The above article is also relevant to the following article.


【Without language, humans can only count to “4.”】


It has been pointed out that the limit of “4” may be shared by a wide range of animals, including humans, crows, and insects, regardless of brain size.


In the brain, the number 4 seems to be a major boundary.


Indeed, if we imagine various cases, the number that can be quickly recognized may be up to four.

For example,

Company names such as UNIQLO, Costco, Shimamura, Nitori, Nike, etc. In Japanese, names of companies can be recognized quickly if they are less than 4 characters long.

Four-character phrases such as “一石二鳥、花鳥風月、初志貫徹” If these are five characters or so, you may not be able to recognize them in a flash.

I think that even when abbreviating a product or artist name in Japanese, such as PC(PASOKON), TV(TELEVI), smartphone,(SUMAHO) Mr.Children(MISUCHIRU) Southern All Stars(SAZAN), etc., it is often within 4 characters. Also, nicknames and such.


I, for one, am a musician, so let me talk a little about music-related geekery.


I can recognize triplets and quads in sheet music in a flash, but when it comes to quintuplets and above, recognition seems to slow down instantly.

The same is true in music composition.

Music is a complex combination of various melodies and harmonies, but the number of melodies and harmonies is said to be limited to three or four.

It is said that even if more than four melodies sound at the same time, most humans cannot recognize them at the same time.

So when I arrange music, I try to keep the sound structure to no more than four notes.

A good example might be classical string instruments. Like contrabass, cello, viola, and violin, again, music is often composed of four (up to) parts.


If I think about it that way,


The fact that we can only perceive up to “four” may apply not only to sight but also to hearing.

In any case, I would like to see similar experiments done with the other five senses, touch, taste, and smell.


Maybe we can only recognize up to four things at the same time with touch, taste, and smell, right?


Oh, interesting. (Fun to speculate and imagine)


But still, why,

I wonder why the number of fingers is “4” even though there are 5 fingers. It is a mystery.


Can this information be used for something?


When you want to tell someone something in a flash, when you want them to feel something, you should keep it to four at that time.


I guess it is like that.^^


See you then.


If there are up to four tastes, then the main seasonings used in cooking might also be reduced to four. You might try to imagine it this way for the various senses as well.^^




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