Could the War of the Worlds Happen Again? It Already Does!

We scoff at the irrational panic caused by the Orson Welles radio play The War of the Worlds 75 years ago. Yet the conditions that led to that panic are mirrored in many conditions today, and the seemingly irrational way we respond to threats has happened many times since then, and continues.

Explaining the Irrationality of the Shutdown-ers

What explains the irrationality of the extremist ideologues behind the shutdown of American government, taking hostage a country they profess to love, rejecting a Constitution they profess to worship, damaging public support for the movement the claim to lead? In a word, fear.
The Smarter We Are, the Dumber We Get About Facts

The Smarter We Are, the Dumber We Get About Facts

You would think that the smarter we are, the more our views and judgments align with the facts. But it turns out that, with ideologically charged issues, we use our 'smarts' to see the facts in ways that allow us to hold views that agree with the group we most closely associate with.

Overdiagnosis. The Danger of Calling People Sick, Who Aren’t

Millions of us are diagnosed with conditions that will never cause any symptoms, or cause death. But we seek further diagnostic tests, or treatments and surgeries, or take drugs, that cause unnecessary harm. Overdiagnosis is a huge and unrecognized problem in health care...too much medicine.

Want to Live Longer? A New Metric, 'MicroLives', Might Help

The chronic risks from lifestyle choices like diet and exercise, smoking and drinking, don't worry us enough, since the costs come far off in the future. A new metric, MicroLives, might help make them more here and now, evoke a bit more concern, and encourage healthier choices

Dana Rohrabacher: Passion or Paranoia?

When we are afraid, we conform our views to those of our group ever more closely, because being accepted as a member of our group in good standing helps us feel safer.

The Risk of Hunger: It Makes You Take More Risks!

The evidence continues to build that our choices and judgments are far less a matter of conscious decision making, and far more a matter of innate, subconscious biological responses to stimuli, response over which reason gives us little control.

The Disaster in Natural Disasters: We Live in Harm's Way

Nature causes destruction, but natural disasters are only disastrous because we choose to live in dangerous places. Why? And how does risk perception psychology make it hard for hazard managers to protect us?

Isabella's Leap, Egypt, Lessons on the Importance of Control

We all need a sense of control over our own lives to feel safe. We do incredible things for this key component of feeling safe, including putting our lives on the line, as people in Egypt are doing, and as I recently witnessed during whitewater rafting in Iceland.

Potentially HUGE News on Climate Change

The White House is preparing to announce a climate change policy that will include executive branch regulation of carbon dioxide emission from power plants. This puts a cost on carbon emissions, and potentially upends the entire energy economy globally, which could have vast implications for human and environmental health.

Angelina Jolie, Real Fear, and Cancer Phobia

Cancer is ranked as the most feared disease in America. Sometimes our fear of this dreadful family of diseases can do us more harm than the disease itself, an issue raised in today's OpEd by Angelina Jolie revealing that she has had a prophylactic double mastectomy for fear of breast cancer because she carries a genetic mutation raising her risk.

The Marathon Bombings: Lessons on Fear, Good and Bad

The Boston Marathon Bombings produced stress, and racism, but also remarkable civic unity. All those responses were the products of our fear.

The Boston Marathon Bombing: Why Terrorism Works

Each fresh terrorist attack denies us the deceit that we are safe. Their randomness, their unpredictability, leaves us feeling powerless and vulnerable. Their brutally violent jars us from our complacent normalcy. These are the things that give terrorism its real power.

News Industry Shooting Itself in the Head Trying to Survive

A new survey finds that by cutting staff and reducing news content in order to stay profitable, newsrooms are losing the viewers and readers they need to maintain their profits!
The Bitter Battle Over Sugar

The Bitter Battle Over Sugar

The attack on high fructose corn syrup more than on all of forms of sugar is in fact not a health campaign but selective risk perception about human-made risks from corporations, and by focusing on one form of sugar but not all, may do public health more harm than good

How Risky is Flying? It Depends!

A New York Times report says flying has never been safer. But it uses the same old naive general averages common in reports about risk, numbers so vague as to be meaningless to any individual. (PS, flying IS really low risk!)
On the Cognitive and Historic Roots of Modern Polarization

On the Cognitive and Historic Roots of Modern Polarization

The battles over the issues of the day are so hostile, so vituperative, so personal, they must reflect something deeper. The evidence suggests the roots of our modern polarization lie in the cognitive and tribal way we respond when we feel threatened and worried. Historic events and trends have fed these fears, across the population.

Be Worried That so Many of Us Are More Worried

Surveys indicate more people are more pessimistic about the future. Such pessimism can feed on itself and grow, and blocks compromise and progress because it divides us further into more and more polarized camps.

Supreme Court: Controls on Gun Ownership Are Constitutional

The Supreme Court ruling on gun ownership has something for both sides in the culture war over gun control

Genetically Modified Food. One Step Closer to Your Plate.

Environmentalists complain that denial of climate change is a denial of scientific evidence. Yet they do essentially the same thing with genetically modified food. A recent FDA ruling bringing genetically engineered salmon closer to our plates provides a good demonstration of this sort of risk perception.

Gun Control: It's Really About Guns As Symbols, Not Weapons

The fight over gun control triggers our deep dependence on tribal identity to keep us safe. Until we face that underlying cause of the fight, we won't make much progress toward the safer world that most of us want.

The World Won't End and Neither Will Superstitions

We need our superstitions, our omens and quirky behaviors believed to bring good or bad luck, to give us a sense of control over the frightening unknown of the future.

Want to Make Better Decisions? Patience!

People who performed better on a cognitive quiz testing their patience at working through brain teasers made smarter decisions about money. Patience is a virtue—for good decision-making.

The Limits of Human Reason, in One Dramatic Video

Perception IS reality, but if often differs from the facts, and no amount of careful purposeful rational thinking or analysis can overcome innate impediments to pure objective reason.

Why Do We Live In Harm's Way?

Many people choose to live in harm's way, in appealing but risky places. The psychology of risk perception explains such dangerous choices, and offers insights into how people can make healthier choices, including better preparation for disasters, and for communities to mitigate risks to their populations.

The Baumgartner Jump: Why Were We All Afraid?

The Baumgartner jump gripped tens of millions with fear. Why? After all, we were safe.

In the Debate, There Was a Loser—Us

Debates offer unscripted chances to learn who the person behind the candidate really is. We need to know that to judge who we want to lead us.

The Lesson of Barry Commoner

Sometimes the underlying values of environmentalists interfere with what they claim they really want.

Lying Politicians, and the Difference Between Being Lied TO, and Being Lied FOR

All politicians lie. THEIRS lie TO us. OURS lie FOR us.

Want a Healthier LONGER Life? Stop Lying.

Honesty IS the best policy, for your health. Lying produces stress, which damages health and accelerates aging.