Friday, November 29, 2013

The Science of Fear: Wrapping Up with What We Should Do

 What We Need To Know

There’re a lot of organizations which can benefit from fear. So, they promote it. These are politicians, companies, media, and so on. Our thought consists of head and gut. Head is reasonable, but most of the time, we don’t believe head. We believe gut which does not often give us the right answer. Gut also suffers from many psychological symptoms such as bias, group polarization, anchoring rule, good-bad rule, example rule, rule of typical thing, and so on. These symptoms contribute to our overestimation and underestimation of risks, and cloud our judgement.

Politics and Terrorism

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“In theory, terrorists could obtain viruses, nukes, and the like from black markets, but these seem to be confined to James Bond movies and newspaper articles trafficking in rumor and speculation. They could also obtain weapons of mass destruction from one of the very few states that have such weapons and would like to see Israel or the United States suffer, but any leader pondering such a move has to consider that if his role in an attack were uncovered, his country would quickly be reduced to rubble.”

Overuse of Fear in Political

We often see politicians use fear in their campaign. It usually works. After 9/11, the President Bush was seen as a heros for striking back at terrorists. The Republican had used fear to promote their popularity for years. The tactic is simple: Promote fear and offer help. But, perhaps, they overuse it. The American feels safer but not safe. They got tired of the Republican and went for the Democrat. Barak Obama won the election in 2008.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Chemistry of Fear

 Safety and Justice

We believe in justice. We believe that good guys must be protected and bad guys must be punished. So if a girl die because of natural causes, it might be a tragedy . But only her family would mourn for her death. But, if the girl got raped and killed, we would be outraged. We would want to bring the perpetrator to justice.
“It’s not about safety. It’s about justice.” 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Government Also Uses Fear

A lot of governmental units also use fear to their advantage. Politicians raise fear and offer help. Police raises fear to get their budget. It is a simple and effective strategy: Create fear and offer solution.
“We feel more in response to violent crime than property crime. We feel more in response to murder than a punch in the nose. We feel more in response to the murder of a little girl than a young man. And truth be told, we feel more for victims we can personally relate to than those on the far side of racial and class lines. The media’s image of crime may turn reality upside down, but it is a very accurate reflection of our feelings.” 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Media and Fear

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“The media actually pays very little attention to crime. It is crimes they cannot get enough of.” 

Again, we are greatly influenced by media--news or entertainment. We believe that violence crimes like murders and rapes occur everyday. Why? This is because violence crimes sell better than minor boring crime. We tend to be very careful about these crimes which is a good thing. The problem is being vigilant of these crimes makes us less careful about minor crimes like having a fight due to road rage.
Our fear is partly because of media consumption. But as we grew more fearful, we’d like to consume more media as a precaution. As we consume more media, we are poisoned more with overstated violence crimes. And, we tend to fear more. This is a vicious cycle which makes us fear unlikely dangers and ignore likely ones.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fear is Profitable

  We are healthier and wealthier than ever. Yet, we think we are more at risk. This is because fear is profitable. Companies know about this fact. They work very hard to  promote fear so that they can sell their products.

High Cholesterol Is Not a Disease

          High cholesterol is just a condition, a bad condition. It’s not a disease. It’s a factor, among many other factors, which causes a heart disease. Yet, media publicizes its ill effect so much that most people overestimate the ill effect. Ironically, it is the only factor which gets this much attention from the media, because of one reason: We have medicine to control the cholesterol level. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Culture Affects Our Fear

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“Trust is difficult to build and easily lost.”


“Risk is a major subject within sociology, and culture is the lenses to which sociologists peer.”
So far, we see two causes of fear: Guts and rules like good-bad rule. But that’s not all. The good-bad rule states that we under estimate the risk of something the makes us feel good. But why do we feel good at the first place, even before we experience it?
Culture shapes our thought. People want to go to the beach even if they have not been to the beach. Why? We want to do something because we heard someone talk about it. It would be your friends, your relatives, or the media. It’s because of group polarization. People around us say it’s good. It should be good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More Rules: Regression towards the Means, Sample Bias, Hot Hand Fallacy

 Regression to the Mean

        There was an experiment to praise and criticize pilots. When the student performed a good landing, the flight instructor praised. Then, the next landing got worse. But when the student performed pretty badly, the instructor criticized. Then, the next flight got better. So the researcher concluded that  criticism works better than praise.          But, in fact, criticism and praise have very little to do with the landing. The main factor is the “regression to the mean”. Suppose you perform a set of experiments. If one sample fall very far from the mean, the next one would be closer to the mean to make up for the large deviation from the mean. So, when the student performed particularly bad, the next landing tended to be better, irrespective of what the instructor might say.

Friday, November 8, 2013


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“Anecdotes aren’t data.”

 Anecdotes or Numbers?

Anecdotes just provide a starting for investigation. We need scientific methods to reason something. We all know this. The problem is our feeling is lousy with numbers (e.g., statistics), and very sensitive to story. So, we see a lot of interesting stories with no insight or insightful stories with no appeal. Use the guideline above to help you become a great story teller. 

“If I look at the mass, I will never react. If I look at the one, I will.” -- Mother Teresa

“If the death of one is a tragedy, the death of a thousand should be a thousand times worse. But, our feelings simply do not work that way.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Great Story Teller

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“People love stories about people. We love telling them and we love hearing them.”
        We know that people prefer story over statistics and personal stuff over statistics and general stories. Exploiting this face, we can tell a great story by the following guideline. 

  • Begin with a moving story of a person.
  • Then, discuss statistics in a more general sense.
  • Finally, close the discussion with the story. 
This way you can tell an appealing story with great insights.