Math disorder makes consumers easy prey
Posted by Admin on 08.10.11 - 03:10 AM
MSNBC's Redtape Chronicles wrote up an article on dyscalculic consumers, concluding what we already know - dyscalculics without the proper education have a hard time in adult life.
"Dyscalculics often can't count change", said Professor Brian Butterworth, of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, and perhaps the world's leading dyscalculia expert. They don't understand interest calculation or exchange rates. By the time they become adults, they are so insecure about numbers that they frequently cede all money issues to others, a recipe for disaster. "Unfortunately, there have been no studies that I know of, looking into the vulnerability of dyscalculics as consumers," Butterworth said. "It would be a valuable addition to this area."
On his website, MathematicalBrain.com, there's an interview with successful author Paul Moorcraft, who managed to hide his disorder from everyone until he "came out" with the problem at age 55. He'd been making lousy business deals his whole life. “I was very successful but I couldn’t count. I kept it hidden my whole life … even counting under the table with my fingers at a board meeting,” he said.
This fundamental failure to understand numbers can have far-reaching impacts, Butterworth said. "Dyscalculics have trouble with PINs. They will try to use the same easy to remember PIN for all their accounts, or write it down. This makes them vulnerable," he said. "If you know you have trouble with numbers, you will entrust your numerical affairs to someone else, and this can also make you vulnerable."
Researchers around the world have just begun to study the impact of the broader problem of financial literacy on the performance of a nation's economy. A 2005 study in the U.K. found that consumers with low numeracy skills earn less, spend less, get sick more and are more than likely to have run-ins with the law. Low numeracy rates cost the U.K. almost $4 billion annually, Butterworth estimates.
It has been estimated that we encounter more than a thousand numbers an hour. From speed limits to page numbers and the price of bread to the billions transferred to the banks, numbers provide a backdrop to daily life that most people process without effort. But when you have dyscalculia, a condition that impairs the ability to understand numbers, everyday tasks can present a real challenge.
Adults who think they might suffer from dyscalculia should be tested by a professional. Adult consumers who fear they might be taken advantage of in their everyday life can learn to work more confidently with a calculator, and would do well to bring trusted friends with them for major transactions, such as buying a car or buying a home. “There’s no cure, but there are coping mechanisms,” Moorcraft said.
Read the full article on msnbc, and discuss it here.