Every Number Tells a Story, by Alex Bellos.

21007530Offered two imaginary anti-dandruff shampoos, “Zinc 24”, and “Zinc 31”, people are willing to pay 10% for the former. Why?

This chapter in Alex Bellos’s book is a fascinating riff on the psychology of numbers. Why is 11 more interesting than 10? Why is 24 more hygienic than 31? Why is 7 the world’s favourite number? Why should a shopkeeper charge £22-99, but a restaurateur charge £23?

The rest of the book is also interesting if you like maths, but Chapter 1: Every Number Tells a Story is all about how numbers work in the human mind.

Chapter 1 in Alex Through the Looking Glass, by Alex Bellos.


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I teach psychology at Graveney School in Tooting, London.