QUICK! Pick a number between one and ten.
This is a harrowing thing. There are clearly right and wrong numbers. Just some numbers are more random than others.
10 (tie). 1 and 10
These are clearly the least random numbers out there. One and ten don’t make you look clever, they just make you look lazy, and everybody will know you aren’t taking random numbers seriously. And if you don’t take picking numbers randomly seriously, what else don’t you take seriously? Sorting the recycling? Washing your hands in the bathroom? OUR MARRIAGE?
On the one hand, ten is better than one because it proves you know a number bigger than one. You look a bit smarter picking ten. On the other hand, picking one at least shows you’re paying attention to the middle of the sentence and not zoning out. One says “I care about your thoughts and feelings” in a way ten doesn’t.
Five is directly in the middle and shows a clear lack of commitment to either low numbers or high numbers. You look like someone who can’t pick sides. What’s going to happen if I get in a fight with one of our friends? How can I know you have my back when you’ve picked such a non-committal number?
7 (tie). 2 and 3
We don’t want to pick small numbers. Small numbers are too simple, they don’t feel random enough. People will question our ability to count high. If you pick two, they’ll think “this is just some idiot, can’t think of a number bigger than two.” No, we need to fall on the big side of things. That shows that we can think about large numbers without much difficulty, an important skill to have.
5 (tie). 4, 6, and 8
These numbers are decent random numbers, and unlike the ones that come before it, nobody will think any less of you for picking them. But they’re even numbers, and even numbers just don’t feel as random as odd numbers do. They’re too… divisible. They can be broken down into other numbers, they come up in our times tables, they just don’t feel like they can stand on their own. And worse yet, they can be broken down by 2! Such a tiny number! Random, yes, but the best choice for your random number?
Nine has a lot of random attributes going for it. It’s odd and it’s big. It feels unique, being a square number, in a was six just doesn’t. But if we’re looking for the most random number, we want a prime. They stand on their own, not made up of other numbers, and we want our random number to link us to characteristics of individualism. Our random number must be prime.
Yes. This feels so right. How often do you come across seven in everyday life? It’s frustrating to do math with, it’s big, and it’s prime. You see a seven on a math worksheet and go, “where the hell did this come from?” It’s the slam dunk most random number.
Studies show that, when asked to pick a random number between one and ten, people pick seven 45% of the time.
Seven is an awful choice, the most obvious of random numbers. If you pick seven, you look like some uncreative conformist. You could have had something truly unexpected, like two, but no. You had to play it safe. Seven is terrible.