Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why Do We Fear?

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“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”--Franklin Theodore Roosevelt

 Reasonable Fear


        Reasonable fear is a good thing. It makes us active and avoid danger. But unreasonable fear can be deleterious. It makes us act foolishly. Fear of another 9/11 made people choose road transportation over flight, and that decision killed a lot of people.        


“The great depression can hurt the United States. But fear could destroy it.”


    Is Our Fear Reasonable?


            We tend to fear what other said dangerous. We fear terrorism, nuclear war, and so on. Yet, we ignore the chance of getting killed in a road accident. We praise athletes in dangerous sports such as car racing and ski jumping. But, we ban the use of marijuana, even the risk of a person being killed by overdosing is much less that a car racer. So, why do we fear something but do not fear others?

    Where Does Fear Come From?

            One of the reason is fear is sellable. CCTV and alarm system exists because we are scared of robbers. Similarly, computer and communications  companies sell anti-virus and firewalls to us due to concern about online security. Spreading fear is profitable. Why should the companies stop spreading fear?

    Confirmation Bias 

         Once we believe in something, we tend to find all reasons to support it. If you find out later that sugar is bad for your health, you can find all sorts of excuses (e.g., just this once, I will exercise later) to consume sugar. 

    Interesting Number Experiment

         Here is an interesting experiment. Suppose we run an experiment for test subjects where we show them a set of number: {2, 4, 6}. The subjects are asked to figure out the rules for making such the sequence of numbers. The subjects are allowed to make examples and ask whether those examples comply with the rule. For most people, once they figure out the rules, they will try to find examples to confirm they belief such as {12, 14, 16} or {28, 30, 32}. These examples complies with the rule. So, they got ‘yes’ for an answer. Then, they would guess that the rule is ascending number incremented by two. But their answer was wrong, because the rule was simply an ascending order. 


    Disconfirmation v.s. Confirmation

          All they actually should do is to find an example to disconfirm their belief, and they will find out right away that they were wrong. Sometimes, disconfirmation is a better strategy that confirmation.

    Group Polarization

          People tend to believe what others believe. If most people believe that it’s ok to do risky activities, another in the group tends to believe so. The tendency to agree to what most people agree even when we don’t fully agree is referred to as ‘group polarization’.
          Group polarization has been our instinct since the ancient age. When most agree that there MIGHT be a lion ahead, we might not agree but decide to cast away our doubts. It’s better to go with the group, even if the consensus is wrong.

    Reason v.s. Feeling

            It is quite well-known that our brain consists of two systems: System 1 (Feeling) and System 2 (Reason). System 1 is faster, snappier and automatic because it is based on intuition. It uses what psychologists called ‘Availability Heuristics’. 
            But system 1 is also flawed. It can lead us to misjudge situations. You would make a better decision if you take into account system 2 (i.e., reason). 

            But, again, that’s very hard to do. For a very long long time, we evolve from hunting and gathering. We use system 1 for so long. It would be quite hard to un-use it and try to look at system 2 before making decision.

    SOURCEThe Science of Fear: How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain 

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    Book or Audiobooks?

    Personally, I prefer audiobooks. It's fun, and I can listen when I'm doing something else. It also makes other activities (e.g., jogging) a lot more fun. For more detail about audiobooks, please read [this post].

    There is one more reason that may encourage you to go for the audiobook version. You can get it now for FREE. Audible offers you a free trial for 14 days. Even if you get the book and cancel the subscription right away (so that you don't have to pay), you can keep the book. And, don't worry if you lost the audiobook file. Just log into audible.com. You can keep downloading the over and over again.

       About the summary: It takes time to finish up a book. And, when you do, sometimes, you want to review what you learn from the book. If you do not make  notes as you read, you might have to go through the book once again. This can be time-consuming when you are dealing with a book. But you can still flip through the book and locate what you are looking for.

    However, when the material is an audiobook, it is extremely hard to locate a specific part of content. Most likely you will have to listen to the entire audiobook once again.

    This book summary will help solve the pain of having to go through the book all over again.

    I am leaving out the details of the books. Most books have interesting examples and case studies, not included here. Reading the original book would be much more entertaining and enlightening. If you like the summary, you may want to get the original from the source below.

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