Negative numbers can confuse us all. Lottery company Camelot has withdrawn its Cool Cash scratchcard because players couldn't understand it and were confused by the negative temperatures on the card.
To win, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing.
This is where the confusion comes in. Camelot received dozens of complaints from players who thought they had won, but were denied their prize money. They had scratched their windows to reveal numbers smaller in absolute value than the figure they needed to be lower than to win, but as both figures were negative, these numbers were actually bigger.
23-year-old Tina Farrell memorably said:
"On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn't. I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher - not lower - than -8 but I'm not having it. I think Camelot are giving people the wrong impression - the card doesn't say to look for a colder or warmer temperature, it says to look for a higher or lower number. Six is a lower number than 8. Imagine how many people have been misled."
Almost three times as many UK adults (15.1m) have poor numeracy skills - the equivalent of a G or below at GCSE maths - compared to those with poor literacy skills, according to the government's Skills for Life survey.
For more information, check out the Manchester Evening News
posted by Plus @ 3:31 PM
Humans can mistake numbers simply by desire. If a person wants to win a prize on this game his/her mind will play the dirty trick to see -7<-8 simply because of the desire to win. This happens at subconscious level and it's the reason why store's prices are like $x.99. These prices are seen as $x not $x+1 just because we want to pay a lower price. This even happens to me, a math major.
When analysing these kind situations (where human behavior is involved) you have to consider human psychology or you can end up with wrong conclusions.
Granted there is a cognitive bias in favour of wanting to win. The point is that basic numeracy would enable a person to override the bias.