Big Think Contributor, "Risk, Reason & Reality"
I'm an Instructor at Harvard, a consultant in risk perception and risk communication, author of How Risky Is it, Really? Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts, and principal co-author of RISK, A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You. I run a program called Improving Media Coverage of Risk. I was the Director of Risk Communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, part of the Harvard School of Public Health, for 4 years, prior to which I was a TV reporter, specializing in environmental issues, for a local station in Boston for 22 years.
If astronomers spot a big one headed our way, our risk perception will switch to “It COULD happen to me, and SOON” and we’ll take the threat more seriously.
Will the people sounding dramatic warnings about the latest risk-du-jour ever realize that in some cases the fear they cause may well do more harm than whatever it is they’re […]
‘Personhood’, Environmentalism, and Hypocrisy. The disconnect between what we say and what we believe.
You listen in on a conversation among your conservative friends. “You know what I HATE,” says Rick. “I hate the government telling me what to do. I hate them […]
What should scare us the most is the danger that arises when we get risk wrong, when we’re more afraid than the evidence says we need to be, or not as afraid as the evidence says we ought to be.
Have you seen “Miss Representation”, the documentary that challenges the sexist, demeaning way the information and entertainment media depict women? See it. It’s important, and spot on…even if it is […]
Suppose you have a disease…an incurable fatal disease…and a drug has just been approved that can treat that disease. The drug only works in about half the people who […]
For all their apparent differences, the Occupy Wall Street protestors and the Tea Party are far more alike than either side, or the punditocracy, would like to admit. There […]
We may like to think that “it’s just a game”, but rooting for our teams, and all the other groups to which we belong, is tied to nothing less than our very drive to survive.
The ground shook violently in L’Aquila, Italy, early in the morning of April 6, 2009, more violently than it had during the tremors the area had been experiencing for months. […]
A friend of mine posted a snarky comment on Facebook about how foolish FEMA sounds, announcing it’s preparing for the crash landing of a satellite somewhere this week. Somewhere […]
White-hot conservative and libertarian anger at the size and intrusiveness of government is getting a lot of attention these days. It seems so fierce, so single-minded; Let the federal […]
Hopefully on this somber anniversary we can turn hindsight into wisdom, and realize that we have paid a terribly high price for the way fear has shaped the new normal since that terrible day.
As many people as were harmed by Hurricane Irene, many – from the safety of looking back – were also disappointed that the storm didn’t put on a more […]
A potentially serious hurricane bears down on tens of millions of people in the Northeast. How will they respond? The psychology of risk perception suggests that some might be at risk not just from the weather itself but also from the danger that arises when our fears don’t match the facts.
As a resident of Concord Massachusetts, where American revolutionaries first shot back at their British oppressors, its impossible to watch what’s going on in Libya and Syria and Egypt […]
The Fukushima nuclear disaster has offered the world a lot of important lessons. We can only hope that one of the most important…a lesson that’s staring us all in the […]
Four year-old Khafra was near death three days ago when he was brought to the refugee camp hospital. He was emaciated, his ribs showing through his taut dry […]
I’ve had an interesting conversation with a colleague the past few days about an earlier piece I wrote here, Cool Dudes, Hot Temps: The Climate Change Battle Will Get […]
What do Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner, James Inhofe, and George Will have in common? Several things. They are influential members of society, ‘elites’ who have a big effect on […]
What if you could radically reduce how many people get sick from foodborne diseases like e.coli and salmonella and norovirus; one American in six (48 million people) gets sick, […]
Funny thing about fear. By the time you feel it, your body is already quite busy keeping you safe.
Earlier this week I wrote a series of pieces (below, at Scientific American,Los Angeles Times) suggesting that society regulate (with lots of open and democratic discussion) the behavior of those […]
The evidence is overwhelming that declining vaccination rates are contributing to outbreaks of disease. What should we do about people who decline vaccination for themselves or their children?
The bulb wars burn brightly on. The members of the U.S. House who represent people for whom anti-government ideology burns more brightly than common sense have come back from […]
A special task force is about to report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about whether America’s 104 nuclear reactors could handle the challenges that led to partial meltdowns at […]
It is not overstating it to say that the world will be watching Washington these next couple weeks, nervously, since the global economy relies on the full faith and […]
We weigh choices about risks against the associated benefits, and the bigger the benefits, the less we worry about the risk.
Jean Jacques Rousseau called cities “…the abyss of the species“. Well, they may not be that bad, but with their crowding and competition and noisy get-ahead in-your-face rat race environments, […]
Don’t pick on the sprouts, and don’t even pick on Organic. The danger here is the way you and I perceive and respond to risk, a subconscious decision-making process that often works well, but which sometimes can create risks all by itself.
Presuming we can be über rational about risk denies the reality of the risks that arise because we CAN’T be.