“Innumerancy Taxes”

I once saw a bumper sticker that claimed lotteries were “a tax on the innumerate”, meaning that most of the people who gamble on such do so because they don’t really understand the mathematics of basic probability (chance). It does seem to be alarmingly true that a great number of people don’t have a good understanding of odds. Sure, some people simply gamble for the gaming aspect, but casinos aren’t getting rich off folks like my grandma who got together with friends at each other’s homes once a month to chat and play penny-ante poker — they’re in business to make money off those who keep thinking that they’ve figured out some kind of “system” or that they’ve some kind of special “luck” or who are addicted to gambling.

There are some really odd ways the human brain works against reality, especially when it comes to understanding probabilities. The brain likes to find patterns, even when they aren’t there. Read the rest of this entry »

ADD-itional News

While driving home, I just heard this latest ADHD news on NPR (link has text synopsis):  some children diagnosed with ADHD do literally grow out of the disorder by the time they are in their 20s.  Parts of the brain responsible for “the control of action and attention” experience about a two-year lag in these children, compared to their age-cohort.  The MRI study at the National Institute of Mental Health looked at scans of over 400 children (half diagnosed with AD/HD) taken over several years, to track the development of various areas of the brain.

Previous studies have shown that the AD/HD brain shows structural differences, as well as differences in the levels of neurotransmitters*.  Although some people continue to have these differences into adulthood, not everyone does.   Apparently this is sometimes merely a maturational delay, and sometimes a more permanent developmental difference.

* No, AD/HD is not “just an excuse” to cover up lazyness, or due to “bad parenting” (although poor parenting practices can certainly aggravate related issues), nor is it due to food colouring, sugar, et cetera.  There are a plethora of MRI scan studies out there demonstrating that the condition has a real, physical basis.