This question is inspired by one asked at MathOverflow. (These questions at Cognitive Sciences and at Cross Validated might also be relevant.)

Are there any studies on what choices humans commonly make when asked to think of a choice "at random"?

For example, this website claims that when people are asked to think of a card (in a standard 52-card deck), they often select the nine of diamonds, the ace of spades, the queen of hearts, or the six of clubs. Or when a person is asked to think of a number between 1 and 1,000, they will often select 333.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And therefore, they're not making choices at random. The closest I've gotten to random choices is asking a specific question about hiding in a circle or sphere. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 27, 2013 at 16:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It would also be interesting to know whether people could be trained to choose more "randomly". $\endgroup$ Jan 28, 2013 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure selecting an item at random that requires some conscientious thought is possible? The card example looks like people picking the first card which comes to mind based on familiarity, maybe considering the whole subset requires too much thought. However if a magician asked me to think of a card at random I would most likely avoid the most familiar and pick the last card which comes to mind. With numbers between 1-1000 the subset is much simpler so you may think a number involving 3's or 7's is "more random" than 500. If you have to think about it then it surely can't be random. $\endgroup$
    – MattP
    Feb 13, 2014 at 12:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ To truly choose at random, you would need free will, and that has been questioned quite convincingly psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/10982/… $\endgroup$ Oct 14, 2021 at 15:21


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.