Home > Math Lint Archive Detail

<< Prev 5/5/2013 Next >>

Psychiatrists and Random Numbers

A person's facility for generating random numbers (or lack thereof) has been used by psychiatrists as one measure of psychological functioning.

A standard procedure and psychometric formula exists for determining an index of this facility. The range is from 0 (perfect randomness) to 1 (each number is predicable from its predecessor).

One research result: a group of normal New Zealand subjects generated random numbers with a higher index (i.e. less facility) than a group of college students, but with a lower index (i.e. greater facility) than a group of psychiatric inpatients.

A second research result: A person's facility to generate random numbers correlated with intelligence as measured by a word-reading test.

Not sure what any of this means...except do the psychiatrists know about Diaconis' work, and arguments regarding the difficulty in even mathematically creating sophisticated techniques generating "random" numbers? That is, is an index of 0 ever reachable?

Source: Waddell et al, "Random Number Generation by Normal Subjects." Perceptual and Motor Skills. Dec. 1985