We social human animals depend on our tribes for survival. Our instinct to help preserve the tribe, and remain a safe member in good standing, shapes our views and easily overrides reason and morality.
Abstract risks scare us less than concrete ones. risks in the future scare us less than those which are more immediate. Extreme weather events may make climate change concern deeper and stronger and instigate action and progress.
The fear of vaccines has not been reduced by communication and dialogue, and is causing diseases to spread. It is time for governments to regulate the behavior of those who refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children.
Risk perception is subjective. Sometimes what feels right is wrong, and dangerous. We need to consider a new definition of risk, in order to make more thoughtful, healthier choices, as individuals and as a society.
There are two risks from radiation. One is the radioactivity itself, the other is fear. Mistakes with risk communication are hampering Japan's efforts to deal with the psychological effects of the nuclear crisis.
David Ropeik is the author of How Risky Is It, Really?, an instructor at Harvard University Extension School, and a risk-communication consultant.
About How Risky Is It, Really?
We are sometimes too afraid of lesser risks, and not afraid enough of bigger ones, and getting risk wrong can be a risk all by itself. Research from several fields of science explain this apparently irrational behavior. These insights, offered here in the context of current issues which supply a constant source of real-life examples, can help us understand ourselves and our risk decision making, and that can help us make healthier choices about risks for ourselves and for society.