The psychology of risk

I occasionally research risk statistics for outdoor activities. What I haven’t looked into nearly as much is why our individual and collective reaction to risks is so disproportionate to the statistics. Tonight I found some interesting thoughts on the subject from a security blogger. While statistics about risk are interesting, they are a relatively new element of human experience. Older influences still have much more power over our beliefs and behavior.

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4 thoughts on “The psychology of risk

  1. I liked your comments on the general risk numbers, that risk numbers are meaningless unless applied to the relevant population. Almost everyone except maybe monks and probably them too tries to control risk somehow so these attempts, some of which (such as wearing a helmet or walking a dog, depending on the risk) also need to be factored in, making an even smaller population (such as helmet wearers or dog walkers) to consider. It’s boggling. Religion can be seen as an attempt at risk management too, no?

  2. Right – the more factors there are in the denominator, the more boggling it becomes. Some factors could even make it zero!

  3. Thanks! I found the Time article a little short on specifics, but it has one great analogy. The prevalence of a gut reaction to risk over a rational analysis can be seen very clearly in our collective reaction to two modern threats: terrorism and global warming.

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