June 14, 2024   12:12am

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Why losing makes you gamble more

Here’s a reason to stay away from Las Vegas. According to a study in Science News, “it seems gambling has somehow hijacked the brain’s reward system.” According to the study, losing (rather than winning) stimulates areas in the brain’s reward circuitry that cause the same release of dopamine one experiences when they do win, eat chocolate or take drugs like cocaine.

Co-author of the study Luke Clark, of the University of Cambridge in England conducted the experiments to explore why people who continue to lose, continue to gamble.

“Subjects reported near-misses as highly unpleasant experiences, but also that the near-misses made them want to gamble more. Interestingly, this effect was stronger when players thought they were able to control the gambling game by choosing which icons appeared in the reel. When the computer chose the icons, the effect diminished, highlighting the importance of feelings of control,” the article reads.

“Being rewarded for almost winning is likely useful in some situations, Clark says. For some tasks, such as learning to kick a soccer ball into a goal or firing an arrow at a target, near-misses are informative. ‘You’re acquiring the skill, and the brain should pay attention to near-misses,’ Clark says.”

“But in gambling, almost winning has no effect on the next pull of the lever or roll of the dice. ‘Games of chance tell you nothing about future success,’ he says. So it seems gambling has somehow hijacked the brain’s reward system. The finding could help in understanding brain pathways that lead to gambling addiction.

See the whole article from Science News here

At least now you’ll be aware why those slot machines are seducing you. I wonder if this applies to the stock market?

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On Harriett's Mind

Beware those online reviews!

Can you believe those online user-reviews?  Read the following …

After watching “The Burning Season” at the Tribeca Film Festival, we stayed for the audience Q&A session — in this case with the director, a New York Times conservation journalist, one of the “stars,” and an NPR moderator.

What started out as a positive repartee quickly turned into one of those New York moments when an irate “stalker” takes center stage. In this case, it was a self-declared environmentalist against carbon credits*. He shouted disparaging comments, threw around facts and when the group we wanted to hear tried to respond, he refused to have the discussion (offered) and stormed out. Opportunity lost to talk about the relative merits of carbon credits, carbon caps, carbon taxes, and what have you.

Later that evening, the following arrived in the “comment box” under our post on “The Burning Season.”  Unfortunately, it sounded remarkably familiar:

“Saw the film, it was boring. What’s more, the director seems like a shill for greedy corporations. The film has the opposite of the needed message, it ays carbon trading is a panacea, when most envornmentalists are against it as a false solution. Really sad.” (NOTE: the typos are theirs.)


I’m so tired of all those yelling, talking heads — literally and figuratively, whether on cable, in the press or online.  Whatever happened to actually stating a few facts?  Or recognizing that maybe there are co-existing solutions to a problem?

Of course, Snoety posts opinions regardless of whether we agree — that’s the point of a blog. This was different. Snoety does not like being used as a “tool” in a negative PR effort.

This brings up some questions:
• Should I have posted those comments, knowing they were part of a “campaign,” but asking the filmmakers to post something for their side?
• Are online reviews something to be increasingly suspicious about — particularly now that we know people are being paid to write them?
• Will all this subterfuge just serve to undermine a medium that we originally depended upon because it seemed so authentic?

From my perspective:   No … Yes … Yes.

And FYI: My antennae is increasingly (in)sensitive to the blogosphere.  I’m counting on opinions from the people I know or on thinking that deserves respect instead … Suggest you do the same.


*The film focuses on three protagonists — A woman focused on saving the endangered orangutans, a farmer focused on saving his family, and a persistent and positive young man who sees carbon credits as a way to save the forests, the wildlife (orangutans, particularly), the local communities, and the planet — all this and make money, too.

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On Harriett's Mind

What I would be miserable without …

Years ago at a TED conference, an “Apple Fellow” came to the podium. He said he was going to present mankind’s most useful technological advance. We, of course, thought he would show us something Apple-ly computer-like. Instead, he pulled some paper out of his pocket and slowly unfolded it as he said: “Here it is.” As we pulled ourselves off the floor, he went on to wax poetically about the qualities of this very old technology — paper.

That talk came to mind this week as I read the announcement that The New York Times was a 2009 Pulitzer Award winner in the Journalism category — FIVE times! How terrific to finally hear something positive about the state of my hometown daily. What a confirmation that the investment The Times directs into pure journalism pays off – in prestige, if not dollars.

Of course, prizes not-with-standing, the problems of a newspaper in our instantaneous digital age are not going away. And, yes, I am a registered user of nytimes.com which I frequent daily. But that doesn’t replace my morning analog ritual – critical to my getting up and out:

• Anticipation as I pick The Times up at my front door;
• Wash my Fiji (impt it’s a Fiji) apple and open the first fold to check out the front page, mentally making a note as to which stories to read;
• Cut into my apple as I turn to the back page editorials where I begin to munch (the fruit) and crunch (the info) simultaneously;
• Get half a cup of shredded wheat bran and flip to the front pages of each section;
• Make my cappuccino (I have a great machine) and begin to actually open the pages and indulge.

STOP! There’s something I never knew about before …
OMG: This is something Aubrey would be interested in (or Devin … or snoety readers … or my pal in Portland … or … ) — cut it out and pass it on … or go to nytimes.com and email or post it …
GEEZ: How did that ever happen without my knowing about it …
WOW! Who knew?

Inevitably it’s what I never even think to look for that turns out to be important and I have to be able to flip through and peruse a whole page to know it’s there! The whole point is:  I don’t just want to know what I know about. I want to know what I don’t know about. The rewarding pleasure is in that element of surprise.

As an avid Kindle,* registered-to-multiple-newpapers-dotcom user, I know of what I speak — my morning scenario is just not possible in a digital world!

Fellow Times readers, this is a cry for help. Here’s what you can personally do:

  • If you’re not a New Yorker so don’t have a subscription, well GET ONE because you’re honestly missing the world!
  • If you do have a subscription DON’T BE CHEAP and cancel it, even if you’re away a lot and can’t rationalize the (truly little) expense!
  • DO TAKE The Times seven days a week!
  • If the subscription price increases, PAY IT without complaint (in fact, offer to pay more)!
  • TALK UP The Times to every media buyer/advertiser/subscriber you know!
  • If The Times becomes a non-profit, CONTRIBUTE!

Above all TAKE A STAND AND FIGHT FOR The Times survival!

Suggestions for The Times? Pass them on to me … and I’ll pass them on to The Times.

I hereby promise,


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