General Question

PhiNotPi's avatar

Why do people have favorite numbers?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12681points) June 22nd, 2011

There have been several questions asking favorite numbers, but no questions have asked why favorite numbers exist in the first place.

People use their favorite colors when painting rooms or buying clothing, along with other things. People order food based on their taste preferences. People don’t seem to do much with number preferences.

So, why do people have favorite numbers? When are they useful, if ever?

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19 Answers

bob_'s avatar


faye's avatar

Because we had to select one years and years ago the first time we were asked.

marinelife's avatar

Because our brains are hard-wired for pattern recognition, and we like the symmetry of math and numbers.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

People use their favorite (or “lucky”) numbers to play the lottery all the time.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Math shows that picking favorite numbers to play the lottery has absolutely no benifit over any other number. In fact, bias towards lower numbers (due to most people’s lucky numbers being less than 30) can actually reduce your average winnings becuase it is more likely that there are multiple winners. People may use favorite numbers, but I do not know of any use that benifits the person.

_zen_'s avatar

@bob_ Got it right. However, just as the placebo has a place of honour in medicine – don’t belittle the great power of suggestion. Mine’s 3 – I don’t remember why anymore.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@PhiNotPi I’m not saying it works. I’m just saying that it is a way that people use favorite numbers, which was part of the question.

dannyc's avatar

Only if I win with mine.

john65pennington's avatar

Favorite numbers are usually associated with a persons good luck.

My numbers are 9 and 11, simply because I have won a lot of money gambling with those numbers.

My Astrological sign is Sag and every book I have read tells me that 9 and 11 are lucky for me and they are.

bob_'s avatar

I’m sorry to disagree with @zen (again), but there is no such thing as a power of suggestion when picking numbers.

There is, however, one simple benefit to always picking the same numbers when playing the lottery, @PhiNotPi: you can more quickly tell if you’ve won anything if you know your numbers by heart.

Hibernate's avatar

Maybe superstition or maybe someone had good experiences with some numbers.

For instance I like 13 because a lot of good things happened on 13s [ I haven’t bothered to remember all the bad happened on those dates ].

flutherother's avatar

@bob It is best to pick high numbers for the lottery which are unlikely to be favourites. That way you will share your win with fewer people and will win more.

bob_'s avatar

@flutherother That is true. Then again, if one were to make the statistically optimal decision, one would not play the lottery.

_zen_'s avatar


There is a major storm coming to a town, and the residents are advised to evacuate. A car drives by a neighbor’s house, and the driver yells out to the neighbor. “Do you need a ride?” The man declines, saying, “God will save me.”

The rain becomes fierce, and now the town is flooded. A neighbor paddles by in a boat. He asks the man if he wants to get onboard. The man answers, “No, God will save me.”

The man’s house becomes so flooded, that he seeks safety up on his roof. A helicopter flies by, with the pilot yelling out, “We’ll lower our ladder so you can get on the copter.” Again, the man declines.

Eventually, the man drowns, and goes before God. The man angrily asks God why He let him die. “I’ve always been a righteous man. I never missed church. Why didn’t you save me?”

God answered, “I sent you a man in a car, and a man in a boat, and a man in a helicopter.”

Moral: whether you believe in god or not, if you don’t even buy a lottery ticket – how are you supposed to win?

bob_'s avatar

@dude_ My point is that if you wanted to maximize your expected value, you wouldn’t stop at picking high numbers as @flutherother suggests, you would refrain from buying a ticket, since your expected value, no matter what numbers you pick, is negative, and zero is greater than any negative number. You can’t mix superstition and statistics and arrive at a logical conclusion.

mattbrowne's avatar

@bob_ – Many smart people with Asperger syndrome have favorite numbers because they experience them quite differently. When they see the number 510510 for example, they also see the beauty of a unique combination of prime number factors. That’s not superstition.

I agree that thinking of 13 as a bad sign is superstition.

bob_'s avatar

@mattbrowne Well, no, that’s a matter of personal preference. Playing the lottery with those numbers because you thought they had a better chance of winning would be superstition, though.

mattbrowne's avatar

@bob_ – As far as I know 60 seconds and 60 minutes were chosen over 100 because you can divide 60 by 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30, while 100 can only be divided by 2, 4, 5, 10, 20 and 50. So maybe 60 was a favorite over 100.

The same applies to 360 for navigation.

Schroedes13's avatar

Favourite numbers help a lot when picking a jersey number for a sports team!

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