Tag: risk

  • Micromorts and Understanding the Probability of Death

    Understanding probabilities is hard (viz.) — and it’s especially so when we try to understand and take rational decisions based on very small probabilities, such as one-in-a million chance events. How, then, to communicate risks on a similar level, too? The answer is to use a more understandable scale, such as micromorts; “a unit of…

  • Psychic Numbing and Communicating on Risk and Tragedies

    I’ve been preoccupied lately with the developing aftermath of the Tōhoku earthquake. Unlike other disasters on a similar or greater scale, I’m finding it easier to grasp the real human cost of the disaster in Japan as my brother lives in Kanagawa Prefecture and therefore there are less levels of abstraction between me and those directly…

  • Political Risk Assessments

    “Safety is never allowed to trump all other concerns”, says Julian Baggini, and without saying as much governments must consistently put a price on lives and determine how much risk to expose the public to. In an article for the BBC, Baggini takes a comprehensive look at how governments make risk assessments and in the process discusses…

  • Anchoring Our Beliefs

    The psychological principle of anchoring is most commonly discussed in terms of our irrational decision making when purchasing items. However, Jonah Lehrer stresses that anchoring is more wide-ranging than this and is in fact “a fundamental flaw of human decision making”. As such, Lehrer believes that anchoring also effects our beliefs, such that our first…

  • Why We Should Trust Driving Computers

    In light of recent suggestions of technical faults and the ensuing recall of a number of models from Toyota’s line, Robert Wright looks at why we should not worry about driving modern cars. The reasons: the increased risks are negligible, the systems that fail undoubtedly save more lives than not, this is the nature of…

  • Typography, Pronunciation and Cognitive Fluency

    How easy something is to read and understand significantly affects how we perceive it in terms of its risk, beauty, difficulty, credibility and truthfulness. Factors that influence this cognitive fluency include typography (typeface choice, contrast, etc.), ease of pronunciation, familiarity and how much the words rhyme. The cover story of this month’s The Psychologist is…

  • Resources on the Psychology of Security and Risk

    Professor of Security Engineering at the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Ross Anderson, has compiled a comprehensive resource page on the psychology of risk and security. The resources themselves are divided into seven section, to wit: Introductory Papers Deception Security and Usability Social Attitudes to Risk Behavioural Economics of Security Miscellaneous Papers Other (Conferences, Websites/Blogs,…

  • 18 Factors of Risk Perception

    In Dan Gardner’s excellent Risk, he lists psychologist Paul Slovic‘s list of 18 factors that influence how we judge the severity of risk: Catastrophic Potential If fatalities would occur in large numbers in a single event — instead of in small numbers dispersed over time — our perception of risk rises. Familiarity Unfamiliar or novel risks…

  • The Realistic Threat of Terrorism

    To think rationally about risk is to think probabilistically / statistically about the dangers we face. Noting that “the most dangerous person you’re ever likely to encounter – by several orders of magnitude – is the one you see in the mirror every morning”, John Goekler offers some perspective on what risks we really should…

  • Children Exposed to ‘Dirt’, Healthier

    From the ‘Science proves mum right’ and ‘Obvious, but still needs to be stated’ file comes the news that children who are exposed to bacteria, viruses, worms, and dirt have healthier immune systems. Public health measures like cleaning up contaminated water and food have saved the lives of countless children, but they “also eliminated exposure…