Below is a picture of the IE team. Not all of them, just those based at the India Develoment Center (IDC).

Apart from their lovely smiles, I noticed something completely trivial about this picture - the number of different ways each has chosen to symbolize the number 'seven'.

They all mean the precisely same thing, but the variation amongst the team members on how they communicate the number is quite varied.  Of the 13 team members in total:

  • 5 hold the 'two' digits in their right hand
  • 8 hold the 'five' digits in their left hand
  • on the hand when two digits are displayed:
    • 10 use the index and middle fingers
    • of the other two people (we can see) one uses their little finger and the other uses his thumb
    • all use sequential digits
  • 11 are pointing all digits upwards, 2 are pointing them towards the photographer
  • 12 have bent their arms
  • 1 showed eight digits (!) - (thanks to eagle-eyed Peter for pointing out)

At this point, you might very well think I've lost my mind. You could well be right. But I find these little things quite fascinating.

Here (sadly) is what I'm asking myself:

  • Are these number symbolization method 'preferences' learnt or not. Are they genetic?
    • As I wrote this I 'did' the number seven to see how I did it: to my own surprise I used my index finger and thumb - only 1 of the 13 in the pic did it like this.
    • If we could ask their parents, syblings and children to show the number seven what would we see? (I'm going to bug my own parents, brothers and sister this weekend and see)
    • Would we see pattens across regions (e.g those raised in Bangalore vs. Dehli), countries, continents or cultures?
  • If you are left handed (I am) are you more likely to hold the two digits in you left or right hand?  I used my right hand for the 'two' - again in the minority: 5 of 13 showed the 'two' with their right hand
  • Is there a 'right' or 'wrong' way of doing this? Is their an 'eek' factor involved when seeing someone doing it a certain way?

Try it out. Try not to think about it, and let me know what happened by leaving a comment.  Tell me where you are from and whether you're right or left handed.

The IE IDC Team

Update: Mauricio Diaz has been given all this a lot of thought.