Darwin-L Message Log 6:31 (February 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<6:31>From john.wilkins1@udev.monash.edu.au  Mon Feb  7 17:21:21 1994

Date: Tue, 08 Feb 1994 09:59:52 +1000
From: John Wilkins <john.wilkins1@udev.monash.edu.au>
Subject: quinarianism
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Andie Palmer wrote:
Hunn's article presents some interesting ideas regarding the
constraints of human memory on categorization.  In
particular, Hunn examines the correlation between toponymic
(placename) density and population density for 10 Native
American groups (plus groups in Tonga and Australia) and
finds that "the relationship between population density and
toponymic density is mediated by individual memory, in
particular by an information-processing limitation that I
will call the magic number 500."  Individuals from each group
are found to have place-name repertoires close to 500,
whether from densely or sparsely populated areas, within
their respective territories.

I vaguely recall that the size of the bands of early humans was about 500.
Perhaps the mental equipment evolved to permit social links to be maintained
within the band. What evolutionary story could be given for other numeric
skills, and what is the relationship between cultural mathematical extensions
and "native" mathematical ability?

Just some lazy musings.
John Wilkins - Manager, Publishing, Monash University,
Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168 [Melbourne] Australia
Internet: john.wilkins@udev.monash.edu.au
Tel: (+613) 905 6009; fax: 905 6029
====Monash neither knows, nor approves, of what I say====

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