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Can a Human Being Compare More than Two Things at Once?

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posted on May, 21 2006 @ 06:33 PM
Assume comparison is for decision-making purposes. If 5 alternatives exist, can we compare 5 at a time or only 2 at a time? The formula for 2 at a time is n * .5(n-1). The formula for 3 at a time is n * .5(n-1) * .3333333(n-2).

Some might believe that only by comparing 2 at a time as part of a larger analysis would be complete.

I imagine a human that can compare 1000 alternatives at once would be a superhuman!!!

posted on May, 22 2006 @ 02:51 PM
I think humans can compare more than 2 things at once, but not even close to 1000. I would think that most people can compare 3 to 5 maybe more things at once. When you say compare more than 2 things at once, my questionis how many variables does each "thing" have? For example lets say you're car shopping and want to compare a few options to each other. Obviously if you tyry to compare 20 variables (example - horsepower, stereo options, price, fuel mileage, # of seats, trunk space etc..) of each car its going to be much more difficult than say 5 variables.

I know from working in sales that if you give someone too many choices they cant make a decission


posted on May, 22 2006 @ 06:07 PM
I can compare 1000 things at once. Just don't ask me what I'm comparing.

Actually I think we can't even compare two things at once. It is just an illusion. We observe one thing at a time, and compare attributes one at a time. We may merge multiple attributes into one inclusive aspect to compare to another inclusive aspect, but that aspect is still observed one at a time. It may just be for a microsecond, but that microsecond of thought is not shared with another.

posted on May, 22 2006 @ 10:28 PM

Originally posted by apc
It may just be for a microsecond, but that microsecond of thought is not shared with another.

So you don't think that our brains can hyperthread if you will. We only have a single core processor

posted on May, 23 2006 @ 02:43 PM
I don't see why subconsciouslly we couldn't.

posted on May, 23 2006 @ 02:49 PM
Old research often quoted the depth of the human memory "buffer" as 7 entities or so. This is a number of words you can typically hold and process in your brain.

I agree that comparing a 1000 entities is an impossibility, however I can I attest to the fact that I successfully do a complex comparative analysis of the following (decent) vodkas at my local liquor store:

a) Svedka
b) UV
c) Sobieski
d) Stoli
e) Vikingfjord

I like them all but I always make a decision appropriate for a particular weekend


posted on May, 23 2006 @ 05:32 PM
Mmmmmm... Akdov sekam em yppah! Absolut Hangover 4 Lyf.

Subconsciously we process like a billion things at once. Give or take...

But the conscious mind is a bit different. And when you compare things, you do it consciously, because youre actively looking at different variables that are influenced by the options, and ranking them on impact or priority. Each step takes the focus of the conscious mind, even though each step may take an insignificant amount of time. Im no shrink so I could be wrong, but I dont think it's possible for us to simultaneously observe and consider two different variables. Except in the circumstance where those variables are merged to form one single variable, which again is observed independently from another merged set of variables.

Now the speed at which considerations are made with respect to all possible influences... that would be the proper focus of this inquiry. If a human could consider 1000 things in just a second or two, indeed they would be quite advanced.

[edit on 23-5-2006 by apc]

posted on May, 24 2006 @ 08:04 AM
now, this thread is full of cool, I think its possible with any skill,
we have the tools, we just gotta try for it.

posted on May, 24 2006 @ 12:08 PM
Someone said that we can only compare one thing at the time.. this might be right..

I think that we look like a millisecond on each thing.. maybe just maybe each eye and half of the brain could do its own thing.. and we could compare 2 things.. but it might be unlikley.. of course if you seen one or more of the things you need to compare you will recall its variables end the comparsion will be considerably faster.

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