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Peak Randomness

April 18, 2017

Mathematically random behavior in humans peaks at the quarter-century mark.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Peak randomness. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our ancestors’ survival and reproductive success may have depended on their ability to not only recognize non-random patterns around them – such as patches of food – but to behave randomly. This according to Karolinska Institute computer scientist Hector Zenil.

HECTOR ZENIL (Karolinska Institute):

Animals switch to random behavior to out smart other animals. Imagine that you’re being followed by a predator, so at some point you decide to go random to lose your predator.

HIRSHON:

Now, his team reports in the journal PLOS Computational Biology that the knack for mathematical randomness peaks in modern humans at age 25. It remains fairly high during our prime reproductive years, before declining around age 60. Zenil says rather than being effortless, randomness reflects high-level brain processes, and could provide insights into both creativity and cognitive decline. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard