The Psychology of Why 94 Deaths from Terrorism are Scarier than 301,797 Deaths from Guns

This is consistent with what I have been saying on this blog over and over again.

Risk perception (pdf) used to be based on an analytical equation: you multiply the probability of an event by the potential damage of its outcome. But Paul Slovic, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, understood the powerful role of emotions in decision-making and altered that equation, noting that many things affect how we perceive risk:

  • do you trust the person you are dealing with
  • control vs. lack of control (lack of control inflates risk perceptions)
  • is it catastrophic or chronic (catastrophic inflates risk perceptions)
  • does it incite dread or anger (dread inflates risk perceptions)
  • uncertainty (lack of knowledge about something inflates risk perceptions)


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