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View Diary: Why People Distrust Science (250 comments)

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  •  People fear risks that they feel little control (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wishingwell, Lucy Montrose, JosephK74

    over much more than risks that they perceive they have control over, and this is true regardless of how much control they actually have. Thus, for example, most parents are far more afraid that their child will be sexually abused by a stranger than by someone closely known to and trusted by both the parent and child, even though the risk of the latter is 20 times higher. People tend to think of driving as one of the safest things they can do because they consider themselves good drivers and because nothing bad has happened to them yet.

    In the case of anti-vaxxers, sometimes the notion of control becomes truly delusional, with parents convinced that their love for their children guarantees that their children would survive any vaccine-preventable diseases. They don't stop to consider that, since children can and do die of VPDS, they're essentially saying that those kids' parents (read mothers) didn't love them enough. Nor do they consider that if they really did have that level of control, their love would also protect their kids against any harmful effects of vaccines.

    By the way, I've found that comparing a risk that someone overinflates to the risk of being struck by lightning doesn't work very well. People perceive, partially correctly, that most people who get struck by lightning do so when they're engaging in activities that they know carry that risk. What I've found better is to compare the risk to that of something that nobody thinks of as at all risky, but actually carries a higher risk than whatever they're worrying about (e.g. more kids are killed by TVs falling on them than <insert name of "risky" activity>).

    Personally, as a physician, I would be very concerned at a child becoming febrile after having ingested bleach or had it shot up his rectum—Orac (Respectful Insolence)

    by ebohlman on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:38:12 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  I think this is also why people fear plane crashes (0+ / 0-)

      more than car crashes, even though statistically you are much more likely to die in a car crash. You feel more in control driving a car. Even  when we're dying, we prefer to go out taking control.

      Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

      by Lucy Montrose on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 06:49:48 AM PDT

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      •  As an aviophobe (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lucy Montrose

        I concur that it is, for me, almost entirely about feeling out of control. From the moment that door shuts, I am now unable to do anything to preserve my life until the plane lands somewhere else and the door opens again. I can't get off. I can't ask the pilot to stop. I have no idea how to fly the plane myself. Even in a car, for example, I can always turn to my friend or whoever is driving--and usually, this is a person I have specifically CHOSEN to get into a car with and not a stranger--and say "hey could you slow down" or "why don't we stop and go to the bathroom" or whatever. I'm still partly in control of my fate.

        "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

        by greywolfe359 on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:42:06 AM PDT

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        •  It's important to remember, though (0+ / 0-)

          that fear of flying is hardly ever a result of not knowing risks, or not knowing how to assess them. It's really more an irrational (and known to the sufferer to be irrational) response to being in an enclosed space with lots of other people and not having the ability to get out of it at will. Although most self-identified geeks would have a hard time believing it, it isn't related to intelligence or academic ability at all.

          Where poor risk assessment comes in is when people view a certain number of people dying in a plane crash as being far more tragic (and warranting much greater corrective measures) than an equal or larger number of people dying in car crashes.

          Personally, as a physician, I would be very concerned at a child becoming febrile after having ingested bleach or had it shot up his rectum—Orac (Respectful Insolence)

          by ebohlman on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 02:29:33 PM PDT

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