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how would you decide?

September 20, 2010

A brief article in the New York Times (click here) caught my eye. It focuses initially on the recent case of a college football player that committed suicide – the autopsy revealed a particular kind of brain damage (“early stages of chronic traumatic encephalopathy”) that has been found in individuals who have suffered multiple concussions (i.e. boxers and ex-professional football players). This particular brain damage has been linked to depression and decrease in impulse control (a deadly combination), and this case suggests that a lifetime of trauma is not necessary for the condition to manifest itself. So, it may not be only professional football players at risk, but any child that plays through high school… The article then poses the question as to what parents should do – pull little Johnny off the football field or subject him to the possibility of a crippling neurological disorder?

Instead of answering the question, the article dove tails into some good old-fashioned cognitive psychology (with the requisite nod to evolutionary theories thrown in for good measure). It provides a brief summary of the short-comings related to our ability to make decisions, and how issues related to making decisions for our children only complicates the situation. Anyhow, the article raises a few interesting points (e.g. the risk involved in driving our children everywhere is much higher than letting them walk, but out of fear of abduction and the like overwhelms the more abstract sense of the risk involved in driving), and is worth reading if only to reinforce the notion that it is a real challenge to get people to make good decisions based on the evidence we have to work with.

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