Humanity’s Other Basic Instinct: Math

Everyone knows that human brains are hardwired for certain behaviors like music and language. Add another one to the list: math. Neuroscientists are discovering that “our species seems to have an innate skill for math, a skill that may have been shared by our ancestors going back least 30 million years.” An article from the “Brain” section of Discover magazine, details a number of these discoveries. For example, scientists showed people two sets of dots for a split second, and then asked them to pick out the sum of the two sets of dots. The results?

People do fairly well on these tests, which summons up a weird feeling in them: They know they are right, but they don’t know how they got the answer. Even in toddlers who cannot yet count, these studies reveal, the brain automatically processes numbers.

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