Answer by Karmanya Singh:
Our brain thinks on the Logarithmic Scale, instead of the additive scale. This means that our brain thinks in proportions instead of differences.
Thus, we subconsciously believe that the difference between 2 and 1 is greater than the difference between 3 and 2 and so on…
The first scale here is the logarithmic scale while the second one is the commonly used additive scale.
It comes in handy in most practical life situations but sometimes, it causes some problems too.
Take a look at the following scenarios
- Case 1: There is one tiger in front of you.
- Case 2: There are two tigers in front of you.
Obviously, you are more scared in case 2 than you are scared in case 1.
- Case 3: There are 100 tigers in front of you.
- Case 4: There are 101 tigers in front of you.
Now in cases 3 and 4, even though the difference in the number of tigers is the same, the difference in the fear you feel in case 4 is negligible to the fear in case 3, whereas this difference is quite substantial in cases 1 and 2.
This is because, in cases 1 and 2, the no. of tigers gets doubled. Hence the proportion is comparatively larger, than in cases 3 and 4.
Thus, logarithmic thinking helps our survival instincts and judge cases practically and comes in handy.
But in some cases, logarithmic thinking causes problems too. You wouldn’t be as happy on getting a $5 discount on a $2000 object as you would be on getting a $5 discount on a $10 object.
This is because, in the first case, you are getting a lower proportion of discount whereas in the other case, the proportion of discount is greater. Although, the amount of the discount is the same i.e. 5 dollars.
Hence, even though we learn to count on the additive scale, our brains were wired to count on the logarithmic one.
Edit 1: Woah, what a response. 500+ upvotes in 2 hours. Amazing. Thank you fellow Quorans. First answer to go this big.