“This common household object can kill you. Which one is it? Find out at eleven,” says the local news anchor promoting his show. This is an old joke. But the truth of it is that we live with risk. Our lives are full of it. Some risks are of course greater than others. We have experts, featured in magazines and on television, who spout off statistics and try to teach us about how to manage the risks in our lives. Who should we listen to?
Gerd Gigerenzer, the Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the author of Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions, says that when it comes to risk you have to think for yourself. That’s the only way to cut through the noise. Society, in fact, needs to make a shift toward prioritizing understanding risk so that we don’t let the experts drive us crazy.
“In the good old times people learned how to read and to write. That’s no longer sufficient in the high tech twenty-first century,” says Gigerenzer. “We also need to know how to deal with risk and uncertainty.”
Teenagers need to understand the risk they pose to themselves and others when they text while driving. Parents need to realize that they risk their children’s health when they expose them to regular CT scans; the radiation exposure comes with a slight risk of cancer. These examples of all too common risks, Gigerenzer says, illustrate that we don’t fully understand the chances that we take. Instead of flocking to the experts, to let them dictate how we should live our lives, Gigerenzer argues that we must consider understanding risk as an aspect of self-awareness.
“If you believe that you’re safe by your delegating the responsibility of your wellness and health to experts then you may be disappointed,” he says. “Many experts do not know how to communicate probabilities or try to protect themselves against you as a potential plaintiff. So you have to think yourself. And that’s the key message.”
For more on understanding risk, watch this clip from Big Think’s interview:
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.
- Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
- The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
- The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.
- For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
- These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
- Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.
The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.