Saturday, November 10, 2012

mildly relevant: i am a masochist .. and likely, so are you.

this headline's been floating around the web recently. in particular, the excerpts below are explicitly from an article @arstechnica:
as the authors of a new paper on math anxiety point out, most forms of higher math didn't even exist until a few centuries ago. It's very unlikely that this sort of anxiety has evolved a specialized brain structure dedicated to it. So, the researchers used a combination of math quizzes and functional MRI scans to identify the areas of the brain associated with the fear of math. It turned out to be one that was previously associated with the experience of physical pain. And it doesn't appear to be the first time that area has been borrowed for other purposes by evolution: it also helps register the discomfort of social rejection..
.. well: that will certainly increase the number of mathematics majors! 7-:

strictly speaking, either we are masochists,
or that we've just had bad teachers that weren't shy about calling us stupid ..
.. others have indicated it can be triggered by indirect forms of pain, such as social rejection. But the authors note the majority of published studies associate it with pain, and that it's possible to induce the experience of pain simply by stimulating the insula ..
okay.  fine, so we're masochists;
my parents could have told me as much!

it can also be a point of pride, i suppose: mental toughness, in face of adversity and perceived pain. actually, it has a stark romanticist ring to it .. (-;

actually, there's more:
 their conclusion is that we are actually dealing with a pain response, and one that's not triggered by doing math. "It is not that math itself hurts; rather, the anticipation of math is painful," they suggest.
to be fair, what else triggers the pain center of the brain? does physics do the same thing? literature? what about sports, where there may be actual pain involved?
.. now that i think about it, wouldn't the readings change if the human subject had nothing to fear from maths? after all, the study is on math anxiety, not biologically-manifested cognition of mathematics.

i must be jumping to conclusions, asking the wrong questions. the point isn't whether maths inherently triggers pain. rather, if maths triggers anxiety, then does it manifest in the form of pain?

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