Business, Economics and Jobs

Sixth sense revealed: the ability to count the number of jelly beans


Researchers discovered that humans do have a sixth sense: the ability to estimate the number of jelly beans in a jar.


David Paul Morris

It turns out that humans do have a sixth sense but it may be less useful than the fabled "Spidey sense" or predicting the near future.

Rather, researchers say that our sixth sense is "numerosity" - an ability to map numbers in our brain.

In practical terms, this might mean estimating the amount of people in a crowd or jelly beans in a jar.

Dutch researchers said that the new "sense" is found in the region of the brain that is organized topographically.

The sense works using visuals rather than symbolic numbers that we've already come up with in our head (i.e. our lucky number or some number that we saw recently).

It is derived from using visual processing, not mental tricks.

"We use symbolic numbers to represent numerosity and other aspects of magnitude, but the symbol itself is only a representation," said study author Benjamin Harvey, in a statement.

"This latter task relies on very different parts of the brain that specialize in written and spoken language."

The study was conducted on eight adults, with researchers asking them to look at patterns of dots that varied in number over time.

Participants' brains were connected to a high-field fMRI during the experiment.

Tests revealed the incredible topographical layout of numerosity as it separated small and large quantities of the dots in different parts of the brain.

The study is another step helps better understand the human brain and how it gauges, processes and understands visual inputs.

The research was published in the journal Science.