Date: Oct 31, 2012 1:32 PM
Author: Louis Talman
Subject: Re: Of Interest

On Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 9:21 AM, Robert Hansen <> wrote:

> Irregardless of the title of his book and his intent, Dehaene doesn't show
> "number sense" in animals, he shows "quantitive sense". It would be as if I
> said that animals and humans share the innate sense of speech because we
> both are capable of making sounds. I opined then that this was a deliberate
> slight of hand by Dehaene. Talk about something that would catch the
> reader's attention (number sense), establish something else (quantitive
> sense), continue on as if you had established the other (number sense). I
> suppose that since this work is meant for popular appeal rather than
> science, Dehaene can use any plot device he wishes.

"Quantitive", or, the already existing word "quantitative" is fine with me
for what Dehaene calls "number". I think, though, that you're conflating
what Dehaene calls "number sense" with what is more commonly called "number
sense"---and the two are indeed different. And your use of the phrase in a
sense other than Dehaene's doesn't contradict his hypotheses. It simply
points out that they're about something you refuse to deal with.

I think Dehaene makes a good *experimental* case for an innate quantitative
sense, to use a phrase you prefer, in all higher animals and many lower
ones. And the hypothesis that "mathy" kids are the ones who manage to
connect that innate sense with the algorithms of arithmetic, while one
cause of non-mathiness is failure to do so, offers some explanation of
things I've seen in the classroom.

There are kids who don't know when addition is appropriate or when
multiplication is. That seems to me to be well explained by such a failure
to connect. This is exactly what one would expect of a kid who learns
algorithms because required to do so instead of as something connected to
the real world.

The issue then becomes one of devising *experiments* to follow up on this
hypothesis---not, as you seem to think, offering rationalizations for not
believing it. Most of those rationalizations can be easily defeated by
noting that humans have bigger, more versatile brains---which are capable
of extending innate qualities in ways that animal brains aren't.

What couldn't be so defeated is evidence from well-defined experiments.

--Louis A. Talman
Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences
Metropolitan State College of Denver